Bette Smith
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Bette Smith

Brooklyn, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Brooklyn, NY
Established on Jan, 2015
Band R&B Blues


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Music Reviews: This Is Neo-Blues EP"

“[Bette's] stunning voice, which oscillates effortlessly between a plaintive whine and a dominating snarl. It's showcased perfectly in 'Teddy Bear'...”
​ - Bitch Magazine

"Bette Stuy’s business is the ‘Neo-Blues'"

"This is Neo-Blues," declares the title on the cover of Bette Stuy's debut record. And what is Neo-Blues?

"A fusion of pop, rock, American roots, gospel, funk, soul and rock 'n' roll to create my own sound called Neo-Blues," Bette says in a telephone interview from her home in Brooklyn, N.Y.
inRead invented by Teads

Bette Stuy — who plays Musikfest's Plaza Tropical stage with her band, the Brooklynites, on Sunday night — may have her own unique take on the blues, but her gritty, growling style still has music critics comparing her to legends of yesteryear like Koko Taylor, Etta James and Big Mama Thornton.

Well known in New York music circles, her career earned her induction into the New York Blues Hall of Fame in 2012.

"I consider myself an ambassador of the blues," Bette says with a hint of the swagger that attracts fans. "The blues is my business and business is good."

Born Sharon M. Smith, Bette Stuy is a stage moniker and a play on the colloquial name of the tough Brooklyn neighborhood where she was raised. Bed-Stuy, officially Bedford-Stuyvesant, is the same neighborhood that gave us Jay Z, The Notorious B.I.G. and Chris Rock, the same neighborhood Billy Joel foolishly "walked through … alone" in his 1980 hit "You May Be Right."

Growing up there, Bette says, her parents rarely allowed her to walk alone. Her mother or her older brother would walk her to and from school. When it came time for high school, her parents sent her off to commute to a religious school in Manhattan in an attempt to "indoctrinate" her into a churchgoing life.

It didn't go entirely as planned, she says.

"It was hard to indoctrinate me. Let me just put it that way," Bette says. "I was always a little bit of a rebel. But I appreciate my mother. She wanted to make sure I didn't get into the drug scene and the rough and tumble of the gang scene in Bed-Stuy at that time."

In recent years, Bed-Stuy, where she still lives, has become more gentrified, with trendy Williamsburg — the epicenter of a bustling music scene — just to the north.

Music was always an escape and a big part of her life from childhood, Bette says. Her father was a church choir director. Her cousin, Wintley Phipps is a well-known gospel singer who has performed for every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter.

Bette also sang gospel in church and later rhythm and blues in clubs around New York City. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bette moved to Los Angeles for several years, touring around the West Coast with an all-girl group that called itself the Soul Patrol.

One night while traveling in, of all places, Canada, she found a band playing in her hotel bar. She asked if she could sit in and sing. They agreed, but only if she could sing 12-bar blues.

"After that, I kind of got hooked," Bette says. Soon, she was visiting blues clubs and absorbing as much of the music as she could. "I fell in love with the blues."

"I love singing sad songs and I love singing songs that move people," she says. "And when you sing the blues, people feel it. There's something that connects you. I love making that connection, breaking down the wall."

Another turning point in Bette's musical journey was a meeting with Ray Charles. As it happens, Bette frequented the same vocal coach as the soul and R&B legend. The coach arranged an introduction and Charles took a liking to Bette and was interested in one of her original songs, "Stay Free," which appears on the CD. He talked of collaboration, but became ill and passed away before that could happen.

Still, the experience left Bette more determined to share her music with the world.

Bette's songs draw on her her own experiences and heartaches, including the losses, over the past five years, of both her parents, her older brother and her dog.

"Out of this experience, it really solidified the blues experience in my own personal life," she says.

One example from the CD is "Black Dog Blues," a slow guitar blues number. "We took our last walk today," she sings. "Now I feel like I'm falling down." Ostensibly, it is a song about her dog, but it is also about the same older brother who would protect her on her walks to and from school.

"His name was Junior and he was a real big dog," she laughs. "He took care of everyone. I was really devastated when I lost him."

In her spare time, Bette volunteers for God's Love, We Deliver, which brings healthy meals to the homes of people suffering with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses. She also volunteers for LifePath, an organization that helps developmentally disabled people to find employment.

Somehow, she has also been working toward getting an advanced degree in social work.

"I like to inspire and help people," she says.

And that shows in her music, which, as any blues fan knows, can have the counterintuitive ability to make the suffering feel better.

"We have a lot fun, a lot of audience participation," Bette says, when asked what the Musikfest audience can expect. "We don't take ourselves too seriously. Our aim is to make people feel good."

Daryl Nerl is a freelance writer.

Jodi Duckett, editor



•When: 7 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 14

•Where: Plaza Tropical, North Side, Bethlehem

•How much: Free

Copyright © 2016, The Morning Call - The Morning Call (major daily newspaper)

"New Music from Fiery NY Blues Singer Inducted in NY Blues Hall of Fame 2012 -- Bette Stuy - This Is Neo-Blues"

Finally, a woman with the blues power of both Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith, the smooth, classiness of jazz/blues singer Joe Williams, the dynamics of KoKo Taylor and the energy of Janis Joplin all wrapped up tight in a relevant “Billie Holiday” look. Billie Holiday? Yeah, she was the first to put a flower in her hair that became her trademark. But, Bette Stuy -- let's just say she lives up to that tradition and I would guess it’s her little way of winking at Billie.

Bette’s CD “This Is Neo-Blues,” is a short five song EP and one bonus cut. It gets off to an immediate fiery start with “Enigma,” and between her muscular vocals and the snaking Jonathan Kalb lead guitar it’s soul music 2016 at its gutsy finest.

Even the whistling works and it reminds me a little of Sly and the Family Stone back in the early 70’s.

The second excursion is a lesson in vocalizing. No lame, whiney female vocals here. It’s all confidence and power. The sexy slur and slide of Bette’s voice, her roll of syllables, the phrasing and intonation all on target, all polished with gratifying verve. But the true sting is in Bette’s ability to know exactly how to interpret a song -- her songs, or anyone elses. “Teddy Bear,” continues with that Kalb blues guitar as it weaves through like a thin needle and thread, tightening the fabric – a good signature sound for Bette.

A nice, clean bluesy guitar lick opens “Black Dog Blues,” and Bette sings in an irrestitible register. Full throat, piss and vinegar, pure sincerity, guttural moments for accentuating. This is an old genre but, Bette’s managed to infuse it with renewed appeal. Quite appropriate for 2016. Her lyrics are crystal clear and vivid. She does not unleash her nuclear pipes where it is not required. She emotes, but she does not over emote. Big diference between this lady and the showboaters of modern day R&B (which is an inaccurate moniker. Mariah Carey is not R&B -- Ray Charles, Brook Benton, Etta James and Sam Cooke are -- lest we forget that R&B stands for "rhythm and blues." Carey has a voice, but not much rhythm and absolutely no blues).

Again, Kalb’s guitar is delicate and buoyed by the vastness of where he can take his solos. This has a marvelous B.B. King style lead guitar all over it and that’s to say a lot. Some might say it's a saccharine take on the pure brown sugar of B.B.King -- but, they'd be wrong. Kalb is competent and his tone is wonderful. He's not just a side player -- he frames Bette's style sassy and sweet. Bette has mastered this provocative blues realm and if B.B. were alive today he would be proud of this effort and how it's been applied by Ms. Stuy. This title has been used before by blues artists but, all the songs on this collection were written by Bette Stuy.

All else aside, Bette's instincts for a good blues romp are on the mark. The sincerity in her voice -- overwhelming. She continues with her Big Mama Thornton growls but she has so much traditional blues vinegar in her throat that she transcends comparisons. I can't impress enough that her voice goes from satiny smooth (something Big Mama didn't do very often) to black dog growl in seconds and Bette is not using that growl for effect – she knows what lyrics require that punctuation to project her message and she never over uses that vocal.

“We took our last walk today….” What an ingenious way to shape a new blues song with a great hook. It doesn't always have to be about corn liquor, crossroads, a bad man, a loose woman, gambling and hitting the road. This is a woman's blues and there are times when the blues can come from a deeper well. The song’s beat is steady and there is never any deviation from meter. Bette keeps it simple and intense throughout. This is an impressive track.

The band backing Bette are the Brooklynites: Jonathan Kalb (guitar, bass and harmonica); Dave “Bro Dave” Likhtger (guitar and bass); Dave Dawson (drums); John DiGiulio (drums); Rich Gaglia (keyboards and guitar); Ariel Avissar (guitar) and Bette Stuy (vocals and whistles). No credits were individually outlined on the CD so I am assuming the lead guitar is always Jonathan since he is listed first.

“Stay Free,” opens with warm womanly tones and upbeat vocals spiced by a dash of cool brass. This has a lead guitar picking similar in style to Steve Cropper and the brass pokes are what makes this song the likely candidate for a single release. It’s hot and it’s infectious -- what soul was back in the 60’s when it mattered, when it was important, when it transcended boundaries, cultures and heritages. It's the wizardy again of The Four Tops, the Temptations, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Aretha and they ruled. This would have been a welcome addition.

Big suggestion to Bette: if the budget can found -- this artist is primed for a recording session with the legendary Rick Hall at his Muscle Shoals Alabama studios (he's still working the boards at 84 and he's the man who put Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff, Arthur Alexander, Etta James and countless others on the charts back in the early 60's. With some help from his Swampers -- Bette could hit the stratsophere. The man and that studio are the Land of Oz for many artists. A documentary on Netflix would substantitate my claims along with all the gold records on that producer's wall...I'm just thinking out loud.....)

Bette paces her album very well and “Stop That Train,” has a flirting harmonica that floats over her vocals and surprisingly, an accordion sweetens the arrangement. This is a lovely ballad – wonderful lyrical story and Bette’s balanced vocal performance is nothing short of appealing. She is virtually whispering the song lyrics into your ear – and makes it intimate and private. This is soul dynamic – it's what makes that genre still special today even though most young blacks (not all) ignore the genre in favor of rap, hip-hop and what is considered R&B today. But none of those approach the artistry that is on display here by Bette Stuy.

This is a very powerful, poignant song and if Bette doesn’t score big with this -- one of the bigger artists should do her justice and cover it just to get her name out there. This song could be a show stopper. It builds gently, and the sadness in it is not a stranger to this kind of groove. Sly Stone did it sometimes, with songs like “Everybody Is a Star,” and Otis did it wonderfully with the ancient oldie “Try a Little Tenderness.”

The bonus track is exactly that a bonus: Bette rocks this time out. The drums snap and the guitar weaves like a spider. What has Bette done here? She’s proven that she can shake, rattle and roll in 2016. She can bend with the best of them. This is a chugging tractor, no frills, no superficial romp into blues-rock. “Hungry Man Blues,” is the track and if Bette continues to produce tracks like these I know she will find her audience. What would be great is if she could hook up with some of the white classic veteran blues musicians like Canned Heat, the Climax Blues Band or sing a duet with Tracy Nelson or Karen Lawrence. This is genre defining material. Excellent. I could listen to this all day and ultra-purists of the blues would also appreciate this kind effort. For some reason when performed correctly, the blues simply never grows old. This was a nourishing, invigorating set.

The six song collection is unfortunately anemic – not enough songs. I needed six you know what that means when you need something?

Bette has to produce a full album, send Rick Hall a CD, get on the horn (as they say in NYC -- and call his studios) and if she continues to pace her songs and performance as she has done so eloquently on this EP – she just may produce yet, a female blues classic album. She has the pipes, she has the soul, the material, the determination and she has the talent. She needs a producer or advisor of legend now. It worked for so many legendary artists in the past -- maybe it can happen again. I see the stars aligning....

All songs were written by Bette Stuy and this 26-minute collection was produced expertly by Daniel A. Lerner.

The CD cover art has a good picture of Bette – but the computer-like typefaces don’t work. The blues are rural, urban and most of all traditional American music derived from a people who have been singing it for decades. It deserves some respect, a more appropriate graphic mind-set. Example: a band called Everlast had an album called "Whitey Ford Sings the Blues." That's a great album cover. That's what Bette needs. Something with that feel...instead of B&W maybe sepia or photographed at dusk. The album cover is almost as important as the music -- it's the first thing people see if they are NOT familiar with your music. Make it matter.

Also, do not showboat Bette into a Las Vegas boob with high gloss aspirations. She has to represent what she does. Cassandra Wilson always has a captivating "look" and aura about her. That's what's needed. Image..image..image. (My PR roots are showing...I'll reel it back a bit).

Nina Simone never came across as a Barbra Streisand. Billie Holiday never thought of herself as Doris Day, Peggy Lee or Anita O’Day. All great artists in their own way. Janis Joplin was an original…. let Bette Stuy find herself so she can be an original in her presentation, as well as, her music. She has it...I know she does.

Decades ago Taj Mahal “looked” the part of his music. On his albums “Giant Step,” “The Natch’l Blues,” and “Blue Light Boogie,” – he looked the part, he sold the image. Not so much today, in his old age he prefers to wear Hawaiian shirts and big white Panama hats – but then, Taj has earned his relaxation.

I came from a PR background – image was paramount -- as important as the music itself. If you sing the blues and dress like a pop singer – blues purists won’t come. The record buying public doesn’t like being confused. Bette has a great blues look, one that could easily adapt if she slides into a higher jazz gear later on – she needs to capitalize on it. Especially since...I found her music exciting.




SoundCloud "Stay Free" -

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review / commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of No Depression. All photography is owned by the respective photographers and is their copyrighted image; credited where photographer’s name was known & being used here solely as reference and will be removed on request. YouTube images are standard YouTube license.

John Apice / No Depression / June 2016 - No Depression Magazine

"Bette Stuy Introduces Us To The Next Generation Of Blues With Her Explosive New EP"

Bette and her band, the Brooklynites, are quickly becoming the meaning of “Neo-Blues.” The Bedford-Stuyvesant native stands out in the music scene with her latest EP, This is Neo-Blues. Bette Stuy is a 2012 New York Blues Hall of Fame inductee who combines the sounds and styles of soul, funk, gospel, jazz and rock & roll to create an original and soulful voice you won’t be able to get out of your head.

She’s the real, raw deal just like Etta James or Koko Taylor before her. She’s tough and true to herself, and her music, which is clear in This is Neo-Blues. Bette Stuy’s talent for incredible singing and songwriting has been heard around the globe too- from the Netherlands to Canada (with the all-female group Soul Patrol), to the Caribbean Islands and even Spain. A trip to Los Angeles even drew the attention of Ray Charles, who fell for Bette’s song “Stay Free” and invited her to collaborate with him before he passed away. Bette Stuy will be touring Western Europe, including the U.K., Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland this summer. In her spare time, she works with non-profit organizations like God’s Love We Deliver and Job Path to assist New York City’s disadvantaged.

Listen to this latest EP from Bette Stuy and the Brooklynites below. - Elmore Magazine


Introducing Bette Stuy: This Is Neo-Blues (2016)



Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Bette Smith reconnected with her musical roots in Memphis and Mississippi – and fulfilled a promise to her late brother in the process. Recording her debut full-length album in Mississippi brought her to
the roots of the gospel she sang in the church and the soul music she heard on
the block on hot summer nights music growing up on the corner of Nostrand and
Fulton. The powerful ‘Jetlagger’ comes out September 29 on Big Legal Mess, a Fat
Possum subsidiary. “The south came to me and grabbed me and pulled me down
there. The southern migration came up and got me. My neighbors in Bed-Stuy
influenced me,” she says.

She recalls that Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn was a very different place when she was growing up. “It was rough back then!,” she exclaims. “There was lots of gang activity. One gang came after my brother and my dad came out with a lead pipe to protect him. It was really
hairy. My older brother Junior protected me from all of that. He would intimidate
all of the other guys.”

She owes even more to Junior. Several years ago, on his deathbed suffering from kidney failure, he made her promise not to give up on a career as a singer. Those last days of his, she sang while he tapped his foot on the hospital bed at Kings County Hospital. “I
didn’t know how else to comfort him,” she recalls. He told her, “I want you to
sing; don’t give up” and she’s kept that promise, playing gigs from One Penn
Plaza in New York to the Boogie Woogie Festival in Brussels, Belgium, always
wearing yellow on stage to honor him. “It’s all for Junior now,” she affirms.

Jimbo Mathus produced the album at Water Valley’s Dial Back Sound and sent roughs to Bruce Watson, who swiftly signed Smith on for a full-length. He’s become a secret weapon for Fat Possum and Big Legal Mess Records; in addition to being a solo artist and a founding member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mathus has also produced Shinyribs, Luther Dickinson, The Seratones, and played on records by Valerie June, Buddy Guy, and Elvis Costello. “You exceeded all expectations,” Mathus told her.

The trip was also Smith’s first to the deep south. She recalls, “It took me out of my comfort zone. I got lost in a swamp one time and kind of freaked out! I’m a quintessential city girl.”

Mathus dug deep into the Mississippi and Memphis soul bags, unearthing “Flying Sweet Angel of Joy” by Famous L. Renfroe, a song with which Smith particularly connected. “I believe in guardian angels. Jimbo picked up on that. I feel that I was giving voice for
Famous. because he never really got a chance.” Mathus also picked Isaac Hayes’
“Do Your Thing,” which simmers with Memphis heat.

The raucous soul-rock of “Man Child,” the spare funk of “Shackles & Chains,” and Blaxsploitation soundtrack feel of “Durty Hustlin’” were all written or co-written by Mathus specifically for Smith. She gets rough, wrestling the title track to the
ground; the song captures the late nights and lack of sleep inherent in a
musician’s life. First-call Memphis horn players Marc Franklin (Robert Cray,
Lucero and Kirk Smothers (Don Bryant, Melissa Etheridge, Cyndi Lauper, Buddy
Guy) were summoned to complete the album’s sound.

Several years ago while singing in Los Angeles, Bette’s voice drew the attention of another artist who came up in the church – Ray Charles, who invited her to collaborate with him shortly before his passing. “It was the first inkling that I had greatness in me,” she says.

Reviewers have noticed, too. On the strength of a 2016 EP, Bitch Magazine compared her to Lauren Hill and Erykah Badu, praising her “stunning voice [and] powerful but pliable tone” saying that her songs “cut deep” and calling her music “remarkable.” Bitch
continues, “[Smith’s] individuality keeps her story in her own hands and gives
her firm ground from which to leap into her career. And with that voice, she
can aim high.”

Soul Tracks said simply, “Steaming… That voice though!”

No Depression said, “Show stopper… Finally, a woman with the blues power of both Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith, the smooth, classiness of jazz/blues singer Joe Williams, the dynamics of Koko Taylor and the energy of Janis Joplin all wrapped up tight in a relevant Billie Holiday look… No lame, whiney female vocals here. It’s all
confidence and power. The sexy slur and slide of Bette’s voice, her roll of syllables, the phrasing and intonation all on target, all polished with gratifying verve. But the true sting is in Bette’s ability to know exactly how to interpret a song -- her songs, or anyone else’s.”

Band Members