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Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Americana


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"Review: Across the Borderline/Lie To Me by BettySoo & Doug Cox"

Two great voices, a guitar, and a dobro is all it takes for Bettysoo and Doug Cox to knock it out of the park with their latest CD, Across The Borderline: Lie To Me. Bettysoo's voice is strong, feminine, and mesmerizing, and Doug Cox' guitar riffs are a perfect complement, soulful, tight, and clear. The CD a set of well chosen covers that highlight the duo's strengths and range from old-school Doug Sahm to more modern fare like Jane Siberry. Highlights for me are "Lie To Me," and "Boxcars."

- Calvin Powers - Taproot Radio

"BettySoo & Doug Cox: Across the Borderline Tour"

Doug Cox from Vancouver Island and BettySoo from Austin Texas met at an Alaskan Music Camp. Doug is well known for his resophonic lap and slide guitar, and has also camped out on his island with musical luminaries such as Doug Sahm and Guy Clark. Doug Cox can play the resophonic inside and out, but he plays it with such taste and control that the acoustic delivery of just two people, rhythm guitar, slide guitar, and voice was quite enough. Wow! The lines cast in and around BettySoo’s voice were perfect. BettySoo (written singularly-Bettysoo) has made a name for herself with calm stage presence, a powerful and versatile voice and deceptively relaxed rhythm guitar hand. She’s also a great writer and you can hear her subtle humor, macabre in this case, in her song ‘secrets,’ a very funny song about a divorcing couple. It’s sweet, but homicidal.

I was lucky to see these two at the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish, which is a small converted church (if you can ever convert a church). The small audience crowded forward and caught the nuance of straight faced wry humor - and beautiful singing. The evening was a respite for everyone, including Doug and BettySoo who had battled rain, heat, and the otherwise occupied crowds at the Bite of Seattle. Seattle’s loss, our gain. That set list was lost, wet and worthless in the Northwest rain. BettySoo made a joke out of asking Doug each time what he wanted to play—he insisted he only knows songs by ‘that thing in G or this thing in E.’

This concert featured songs from their latest CD ‘Lie To Me’ full of songs written by their friends including: Loudon Wainwright III, Doug Sahm and Guy Clark. In ‘Lie To Me’ BettySoo can belt out notes and at the same time caress the high notes. She has one great voice with excellent range. ‘You Don’t Need’ is sung quite softly and expressively. The control is still there even in the soft stuff. This song has incredible images from someone whose lover has moved on “and the wind howls across the ice flows…as I stumble to the tundra and tundra is my lover…” ‘Be Careful There’s a Baby in the House’ is a humorous expression of the power a baby has upon arrival. The words are set on top of a not-your-normal musical scale, picked guitar. Doug sings this one with BettySoos help. ‘Boxcars’ is one more heck of a train song, which just whacks along slowly - it’s mostly about watching the trains and life go by. BettySoo moves her voice around and Doug lets the resophonic guitar speak with eloquence. I found these last three choices to be exquisitely performed.

'Louis Riel', written by Doug Sahm, is a tribute to the leader of the Me’tis people of Canada who trace their descent to mixed European and First Nations people. Riel led a resistance against the Canadian government to preserve the rights of his people for which he eventually was executed in 1885. He is still a hero to French speaking people of Quebec vs. the English speaking parts of Canada.

This duo's entire collection contains understated poetry—it sneaks up on you. Doug’s playing is haunting, echoing the melodies, lightly touching the harmonics. I cannot imagine anyone playing or singing these songs any better. Hopefully, they will be back and you will stop and listen.

- J.W. McClure - Victory Music

"Simply Perfect: BettySoo and Doug Cox "Lie To Me""


Getting on for twenty years ago I bought an album by Nanci Griffith called ‘Other Voices Other Rooms’ and it remains one of the most important purchases that I’ve ever made. Seventeen covers versions, some by artists I knew; Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Ralph McTell and some by artists I didn’t; John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt and, the peerless Kate Wolf. I daren’t think how much money I spent on albums and concerts on artists whose songs were used on this album.

There are similarities between this and ‘Lie To Me’ by Across The Borderline, the collaboration between Texan singer-songwriter BettySoo and Canadian dobro wizard Doug Cox. They too combine a mixture of artists whose work I know: Butch Hancock’s ‘Boxcars’ and Guy Clark’s ‘Dublin Blues’ for example; artists I’ve heard of but whose work I don’t really know; Jane Siberry, Blaze Foley and Doug Sahm; and those who are completely new; Jeff Talmadge, David Halley and Betty Elders.

The big difference is that Griffith had a cast of thousands appearing on Lie To Me you have just BettySoo and Cox together with David Essig who helped on production and recorded the album and Mark Hallman who mixed and mastered it. With just two voices, a guitar and a dobro (and a tiny amount of drums that you can just hear in the background of ‘Dublin Blues’) this record is the perfect definition of the adage less is more.

The stripped back, low key approach brings out the best of both musicians. BettySoo’s voice is the perfect combination of strength, vulnerability and clarity while the sound of Cox’s resophonic guitar shifts from delicate to strong. The limitations they have imposed on themselves make this album all the more impressive. It is beautifully simple and one of the few albums where you are compelled to play every track with no fast forwarding and no rewinding. It is just perfect.

- John Hawes - Americana-UK

"VG Hit List Reviews - Vintage Guitar Magazine"

Though it’s included in the bio on her website, it almost seems unfair to mention that this musician has only been writing and performing for about a year—lest anyone prejudge her as a novice. If anything, it proves that, at least sometimes, mileage is irrelevant. Because this singer/songwriter’s debut is as mature as it is refreshing.

Likewise, there’s a hint of the various influences she credits, but if Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, and the Indigo Girls aren’t at the top of your fave raves, don’t let that stop you from checking out this very original new voice.

Actually, Betty Soo sings in a couple of voices—sounding light and breathy on the opening “For Bethany,” then bold and sexy on “Over You,” where she dips into her lower register. Best of all, she’s always in tune and never resorts to vocal gymnastics, preferring to let the melodies and lyrics speak—a concept seemingly lost in the “American Idol” age.

Appropriately, the backup band shifts from delicate to muscular, as befits the material. Versatile Austin fixture Stephen Doster, who met Betty at a local songwriting get-together, serves as producer and lead guitarist—tastefully never sacrificing the former role for the latter, always playing in ways that don’t overshadow the song or singer.

It’s tempting to say that a song like “Frail” could be a hit if covered by, say, the Dixie Chicks, but, boutique label aside, BettySoo’s version already sounds like a hit. The most remarkable aspect of this ten-song collection is that there simply isn’t a clinker in the lot—which is something even this newcomer’s heroes can’t claim.

(c) 2005 Dan Forte; all rights reserved.

- Dan Forte, Nov 2005

"Texas Platters / Girlie Action - Austin Chronicle"

Betty Soo appears an unlikely candidate for a pop singer-songwriter, a second-generation Korean raised in Texas with a name that sounds like Buddy Holly gave it to her. Her gifts aren't only the lovely and poignant Little Tiny Secrets but also a four-song EP released simultaneously, Never the Pretty Girl. Together, they frame Soo's picture-perfect lyrics ("You've Got a Way," "The Hard Way," "Secrets") and sweet soprano on a background of lush melodies that linger in the head ("Easy Living," "New Color"). Of the three women here, Soo is the one flying the most below the radar. If that doesn't change with this album, kick the machinery. - Margaret Moser, Nov. 16, 2007

"BettySoo biography"

Change is good. Sometimes, you just need a little shake-up to get things to how they always ought to have been. With Heat Sin Water Skin, BettySoo adds some welcome edge and grit we always knew she had to the heartbreaker ballads and bell-pure vocals she’s come to be known for.

Teamed with seasoned producer Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier, Slaid Cleaves...), BettySoo has made a record worth sitting up and paying attention to. Her vocals are striking, the players are strong, the sound is compelling, and her writing is better than ever.

Her first two studio albums (Let Me Love You, 2005; Little Tiny Secrets, 2007) and EP (Never the Pretty Girl, 2007 – sold for charity) were well received by critics, earning praise locally and nationally – even securing her some performance opportunities overseas. And she’s not slowing down any time soon. Since their release, she has earned multiple songwriting awards (including Kerrville New Folk, Wildflower! Festival, & Big Top Chautauqua Songwriter of the Year) and has proven herself a strong emerging performer as well.

Joining her on Heat Sin Water Skin are Todd Wilson on organ, Gene Elders on fiddle, and Dave Terry on drums. BettySoo and Gurf handled the guitar and vocal parts themselves. As for genre, she’s still nestled in the folk-rock world, but she is bringing something new to her listeners. “There’s a little gospel, some straight-ahead folk, and maybe even a familiar oldie with a new twist. Be ready for a surprise.”

Then again, not much about BettySoo isn’t surprising. People are surprised just to see her take the stage. Plain-faced, petite (she’s five foot exactly), and freckly, people don’t have any idea what to expect – they certainly don’t expect such a large voice and moving songs. “I guess Asian-American singer-songwriters aren’t all that common,” she comments, “at least, not in Texas.” In fact, she regularly gets greeted after her shows with praise comparing her music and vocals to everyone from Ruthie Foster to Sheryl Crow to Joan Baez.

Then, of course, there’s the whole issue of her name. How did a second-generation Korean end up with such a classic southern name? Is it a stage name? “No,” she answers, laughing, “I guess I’m just lucky that way. It’s right there on my birth certificate. Soo is my dad’s middle name, too. Yep, he’s a boy named Soo.” - -

"BettySoo - Country Line Magazine"

I had the opportunity recently to attend the Merle Haggard Birthday Bash at Threadgill's here in Austin and it turned out that I discovered something. While the roster of acts came and went onstage, there was one that stood out in a big way. bettysoo was her name and let me tell you now, if you have the chance to catch her while she is in the early stages of her career, you'll be on the ground floor of what I call a "soonami". It was amazing to say the least and it was interesting to watch the crowd, which was a little restless and noisy when she first went on. Then, gradually, they began to get silent and listen intently to this tiny woman while she blew them away with her songs. It's almost like there are two people here, there is the small, soft spoken, demure person that is offstage, friendly and warm, talking to everyone. Then, in the seven steps it takes to get to the stage, another person appears. When she opens her mouth to sing, out comes this gargantuan voice captivating you with these soul stripping, emotional songs that are all original compositons. After listening to her CD, I was even more impressed. "Sunshine Girl", "Over You", "It Seems", they were all good. I think we're looking at a future multi-platinum, Grammy winning star here and I want to be the first to say, "I told you so". Check out the local record stores or go to and get yourself a copy because you can't have mine, ever. - Greg Roberts, July 2006

"BettySoo - Austin-American Statesman"

A new, more pop conscious Nanci Griffith strums among us. BettySoo's terrific second album sounds like it couldn't come out on the MCA Nashville label, so full is the production of Stephen Doster... there's an offbeat quality to songs like "Secrets" and "Goodbye" that bellow Austin studio...Soo's voice is certainly worthy of major-league attention.

"Little Tiny Secrets" contains one of the most inventively touching love songs heard in a long time. "If there was a song of the story of us/ it wouldn't have a refrain/ there'd be a hundred verses/ and never the same line" starts "The Story of Us," which is about a relationship that becomes a song that others may not get, but so what?

Another highlight is "Revival," with its utopian vision delivered by a singer who believes in a way that makes listeners drop their guard.

Recommended: "New Color," "The Story of Us" *** - Michael Corcoran, Oct 16, 2007

"Big Talent, Little Package: A Girl Named Soo - Texas Music Magazine"

"I was never the first one that you'd see," BettySoo sings on "Never the Pretty Girl," the heartbreaking title track of a four-song EP that accompanies her stellar sophomore effort, Little Tiny Secrets. But When you're an almost-5-foot-tall, freckle-faced Korean singer-songwriter from Texas, well -- you tend to stand out, especially when you're possessed of a gorgeous, powerful soprano, irresistible melodies and emotionally revealing lyrics about women in transition.

It's not surprising, then, when the self-effacing singer born Betty Soo Kim says, "There's always more to the story," describing at once her narrative and her songs. "Some of them sound simple and surfacey," she says, "but they're all pretty costly when you're putting your wounds on paper, then sharing those wounds over and over every time you sing."

But Little Tiny Secrets is as much about resilience as heartbreak, reflected in the album's upbeat acoustic pop, driven by producer Stephen Doster's guitar, and the album's meditative centerpiece, "Revival," with its moving vision of a world where the broken are healed. It's why the album was easily one of the best releases of 2007.

"I don't want to change music history," says BettySoo, at ease in sincerity. "I just want to connect with people ... to communicated something I know they're receiving. The compliment I cherish most is when someone tells me they understood what I meant when I was singing."

In truth, BettySoo has always been a performer of sorts. As a second-generation Korean-American from Spring, Texas, BettySoo and her three sisters were encouraged to pursue education and a traditional career path -- "one that required a license," she says -- but admits, "Secretly, i wanted to be famous. I don't think my parents dreamed of us becoming musicians or artists, but they've been very supportive."

She took violin, piano and oboe lessons, performed in school plays and got her first taste of hte music business in elementary school, when a textbook publisher came looking for aspiring vocalists. BettySoo's music teacher recommended her, and she got the job, which meant spending her Saturdays belting out children's songs and the occasional tongue-in-cheek parody like "Scintillate, Scintillate, Globule Aurific" ("Twinkle, Twinkle," of course). "That was my first paying gig," she laughs. "We were paid $10 a song --$20 for a solo."

At the University of Texas, she majored in creative writing and dabbled in music, singing backup vocals on occasion for a bluegrass ensemble. "People would just stare at me," she recalls. "These white guys would go on stage with mandolins and banjos, and here would come this 5-foot Korean girl." She had considered teaching, but an informal class she took on songwriting introduced her to a community of artists and provided her -- finally -- with the impetus to make the leap. "The only person who didn't give me permission to pursue music was me," BettySoo says. "Once I did, I knew I'd been searching for that the whole time. Contentment comes from knowing you're doing what you're supposed to do."

Her first album, Let Me Love You (2005), was well-received critically, allowing her to play college towns like Austin -- her CD release drew an overflow crowd at the Cactus Cafe -- and Chapel Hill, N.C. "I sent posters ahead of the Chapel Hill show," BettySoo recalls, "and they put one of my posters next to a chalkboard, on which someone started a daily haiku contest, because, you know, they thought I was Japanese. But it was well-intended."

Now sitting in the Austin home she shares with her husband (and drummer), Dave Terry, BettySoo is preparing for a trip to Boston, where she'll perform at Tufts University. Her disposition is such that she's able to take everything in stride, whether the slew of nice reviews of Little Tiny Secrets or the (apt) comparisons she's drawn to Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, Sheryl Crow and Nanci Griffith. But she's humbled by those in the music industry who've come to her aid, like Terri Hendrix, who has served as a mentor, and Sara Hickman, one of BettySoo's earliest supporters.

"Sara has been a remarkable giver," BettySoo says, "recommending me by word of mouth, sending people to my shows and sending my music to agents, A&R folks, venues, and everyone else under the sun. She's been an incredible example to me of kindness and grace. It makes me long for success for the sake of helping other artists and acting in love, which is a much more joyful ambition than working for the sake of fame or money."

In fact, BettySoo has an unexpected career goal: to sing backup. "Hopefully, Lyle Lovett decides to add me to his large band, and I get to do some of Francine Reed's parts," she smiles. "Really, the job I'd quit it all for is to be a full-time background vocalist. I think that's about the greatest job in the entire world." And one that would surely get her noticed. - Tom Buckley, Spring 2008

"June 2009 Review - Folkwax"

Controlled and Naked Passion, (06/04/09)

Texas singer-songwriter BettySoo's third album, Heat, Sin, Water, Skin, bridges divides: Pop and Folk, heart-shamed and -healed, hard knocks interspersed with soft kisses, controlled observation abandoned for naked passion. She has the voice and melodic skill to lend credibility to any emotion, but with a capacity for such pure, tender prettiness that I found myself most drawn to the album's gentle and romantic Water/Skin moments.

Produced by the sought after Gurf Morlix (Slaid Cleaves, Mary Gauthier, Lucinda Williams), every note and word is clear as a bell. The instrumentation is a mix of electric and acoustic, at moments snarly and aggressive, mostly not. The melodies tend toward soft Rock and Pop, with accents of Blues and Folk. There are experimental flourishes that add interest. If I'm not mistaken, the deep, clicky sound on the opening track is that thing kids always do on long car rides: sucking air through a clenched throat. Odd in this context, but commendably so. I found the sharp, slowly tapped drum on the slower numbers to be distracting, but I'll admit that's a pet peeve.

BettySoo comes charging out of the gate with her Heat and Sin. "Never Knew No Love," the album's opening track, is the hard, bluesy lament of a sorely compromised woman. The hooks certainly find a purchase, especially after a couple listens, though I'd like to know a few more details about the origin and/or future of this particular heartbreak. In fact, several of the songs left me feeling the same way: hooked by the chorus, but without a complete understanding of why. Maybe that's a strength. You decide.

After a couple softer songs, one of which I'll return to in a moment, she gets rocking again on her Katrina number, "Who Knows." It's a good one. Even this everyman's tragedy is seen through Bettysoo's consistently feminine lens: "Sky had enough of being taken for granted . . .Like a man you're laughing at her/Sayin' how pretty she looks before she blows." Burn.

The softer song I mentioned above is "Whisper My Name." This one is sure to get around. It's the reach-for-your-partner's-hand moment in the record. It's palpably romantic and showcases Bettysoo's voice at its silvery, graceful best. By this point in the album (and it's only track 3), you're going to be rooting for this woman to find a kind soul who will appreciate her. In "Whisper"—hallelujah! —she finds him.

I perked up at the beginning of "What We've Got," as the lovely, mellow melody promised more of the same, but the chorus revolves around the central metaphor of enjoying her beloved like a favorite pair of jeans. That might work for a teenager who is looking for a prom date, but I had the impression this was a lady who'd been through the flames. I would think she'd treasure a true love more like air to breathe, not blue jeans.

Now, it's important when listening to an apparently autobiographical song to bear in mind that songs are necessarily art, but not necessarily fact. The narrative voice of "Never the Pretty Girl" could be pure invention, but she's got me believing that this song is the key to Bettysoo: a lonely, hungry heart forgotten in the shadow of the popular set, but she knows, and they know, that if you want reliable, you can count on BettySoo. If you weren't on her side before this confession, you will be now. How sad that this entirely willing and loving heart takes so many punches, as the rest of the album let's us know in no uncertain terms.

Where she isn't taking punches is in the Folk world. I had the chance to see BettySoo perform live at last fall's Northeast Regional Folk Alliance conference, an annual gathering of agents, label reps, Deejays, talent buyers, and numerous musicians hoping to break into the important Northeast Folk market. Based on the strength of her demo material and her first-place finishes during 2008 in the Kerrville New Folk competition, Wildflower Festival Competition, and Big Top Chautauqua Songwriting Competition, she was given a second-from-the-top slot, known in conference parlance as a "Tri-Centric Showcase."

BettySoo was one of the gathering's buzzed-about artists, and the large room was packed. I found her stage presence to be reserved, yet wry, smart, and dignified rather than effusive—in short, a breath of fresh air. The songs I heard her play that night were included in Heat, Sin, Water, Skin, and it's telling that I recognized them instantly, and fondly, more than six months later. They soar on this well made album, which is certain to become a Folk Deejay favorite. Let's see if the popular kids back home in Texas want to befriend her now.

- Sarah Craig is the manager of the legendary Caffe Lena in Saratoga, New York. - FolkWax

"BettySoo's Heat Sin Water Skin - No Depression"

This review has sort of a special story that goes along with it. I have to tell it first. It’s important and absolutely relates to the review itself. It has to do with fate as well.

You see, this record literally fell into my lap. A “DJ” friend gave it to me to listen to. When I got home, I sat it on the shelf and had not looked at it in weeks. I sat down to write my Best of 2009 list.

I write about music so it is only fitting I listen to some while I work. I reached up to grab a CD off the shelf and this one actually fell off the shelf and into my lap. No shit!

I thought to my self, “what the hell!”, and put it in the player.

I went to work compiling my list and before I knew it, almost instantly, I was captivated by they voice and accompanying music emitting from my speakers.

“Who was this woman?” I wondered.

I reached for the jewel case and perused the simple artwork done in cool earthy tones, and the smooth flowing cursive handwriting on the cover. It read – BettySoo, Heat Sin Water Skin.

I was done for. She had lured me into her clutches with her silky smooth and seductive voice on the very first track, “Never Knew No Love”. It possesses a very bluesy intro with a slightly distorted guitar signaling the way for her vocals.

When the sun’s still beating down September
Can’t touch your toes to the pavement in the afternoon
Swinging out front, wondering whether
Sins of the summer gonna come
Catch up with you soon

There is a dash of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. I wasn’t positive the first time I heard the song, so I had to replay it, and sure enough, there was a throaty groan that resided just beneath everything to add to the atmosphere of the tune. I suppose you could call it the finishing touch that helps to give the song the sweaty, sultry nature it possesses. In other words, folks, this song ain’t just about the weather. The lyrics tell us that. However, I believe you could remove the lyrics and you could still get the same suggestion just from the arrangement of the melody. The song was a great beginning to what was going to eventually be my seventh best record of 2009.

On track two we get a ballad that speaks of a woman being used by another:

Am I just another lover to you?
Another piece of skin you could get close to
Someplace warm where you once fit in
Invisible, expendable as oxygen
Am I just another lover to you?

Betty Soo almost whispers this little ballad and the violin played by Gene Elders adds to the hopelessness expounded by the protagonist in the tune. Gurf Morlix plays the softly picked electric guitar. It’s a very soothing sounding song but don’t be misled, the lyrics are about being hurt, and being hurt deeply, about being used, about just being a piece of flesh. Sin.

The fourth track on the record, “Who Knows”, begins with the expertly played electric guitar leading us into again, the silky smooth voice of BettySoo. It is another very bluesy song asking:

Who knows…if there will be a place to come home to
Who knows…if the nails and plywood will hold
Who knows…if it’s any safer where we’re going to
But it’s west and north for now

Obviously, it’s a song about impending doom, in this case, a hurricane approaching. Or is it? Could it also be how people come in and out of our lives not caring how disruptive they have been? Sometimes that happens. We blow through people's lives like a strong wind, destroying everything in site, then moving on as if nothing ever happened. BettySoo’s voice rings true, and on this particular tune, she really takes off and shows her range which only adds to the drama this tune contains.

We Texans love to sing about the weather. It’s great subject matter here. When one sings about the weather, it more than likely can be taken literally or metaphorically, but more often, both. In Texas, we have a lot to work with, both literally and metaphorically. To the North we have “Tornado Alley”. All along the Gulf Coast, we have hurricanes. In between, we have high winds and some ferocious thunderstorms that appear with such darkness one could assume Armageddon is upon us.

Stevie Ray sang about it in “Texas Flood” and “Couldn’t Stand the Weather”. Aaron Thibeaux Walker, AKA T-Bone Walker, sang about it in “Stormy Monday”. So why not BettySoo with "Who Knows”? The guitar is wonderful through out the record but really shines through on this tune. Why would you expect anything less when you have Gurf Morlix playing lead guitar?

Track Six is groovy little tune called “Get Clean”

Pull the curtains down
Throw the doors open
Strip the bed, turn every light on
Step in the river, let it cover
Let go when you go under

Followed by the chorus

It’s time to get clean
It’s time to get clean
Take what’s hidden and make it seen
It’s time to get clean

Great lyrics sung by a great vocalist accompanied by great musicians. Again, we have Gurf Morlix on lead guitar and bass, BettySoo plays acoustic guitar and Dave Terry is on drums. In all actuality it is a simple tune laid out in such a way that it all comes together to become one of the best songs on the album. There is also the un-credited, what sounds to me like the ever reliable Hammond organ, which tremendously helps to establish the dramatic nature of the tune. Again, it’s a song that lies a bit on the blues side but there is nothing wrong with that, considering the subject matter. It’s about getting clean of course, and can be interpreted many different ways. However, considering the title of the record, it should be taken to mean exactly what it says in this particular case.

Heat Sin Water Skin – The title of the record itself could be one of the shortest poems ever. The songs on this record all pertain to the title. Sometimes literal sometimes metaphorical, and as mentioned earlier, often times, both. You can tell after listening to this record that there was a lot of heart and soul poured into the production values. It shows on very nearly, every track and why wouldn’t it? Gurf Morlix wasn’t just one of the musicians on the record, he also produced it, and as the credits on the record state, he was even dragging cable. Talk about hands on! He takes it to a completely new level. Meaning he may have believed in this record almost as much as the artist.

This is truly a great record, which absolutely deserved, at the very least, the seventh spot on my Best of 2009 list. If I had heard it earlier and had more time to listen to it, the record probably would have made it even higher than number seven. I find it interesting, and a little sad, it hasn’t garnered more National attention. That being said, it is certainly a recording you will want to add to your library if you have not already done so. I expect we will all be hearing a lot more from this young Austin, Texas singer/songwriter.

- Rod Ames - No Depression, December 2009

"Aftermath: BettySoo at McGonigel's Mucky Duck - Houston Press"

It took Spring native Betty Soo a little while to get it rolling Tuesday night, but once she did she wowed the Mucky Duck's capacity crowd with her voice, lyrics and gentle personality. Working in fresh-off-the-road Jon Dee Graham bassist Joshua Zarbo for the first time, it took Soo's foursome a few tunes to warm up. But they finally gelled halfway through the first set, allowing Soo to fully open up and lean into her work.

And lean into it she did, most impressively.

And who knew going in that we'd be hearing a Korean-American girl channel J.J. Cale as guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn laid on licks thick as a steak on "Never Knew No Love," "Get Clean" and Soo's amazing tune "Still Small Voice"? Who knew Soo had the chops - and the guts - to suck the air out of the room by singing Hank Williams?

And she didn't just sing "I Heard That Lonesome Whistle," she gave it a singular interpretation like a jazz singer. The crowd was totally quiet, stunned by the beauty of the moment.

In the over-crowded, somewhat stale field of Americana, Betty Soo is the very real deal and, based on last night's spunky performance, we can only hope that she is going to become a familiar face on stages around town.

- William Michael Smith - Houston Press, July 2009

"A Girl Named Soo: BettySoo's Drawer Full of Yogurt Cups - Austin Chronicle Cover Feature"

The rear door of the tiny dining room in La Cocina de Consuelo on Burnet Road swings open, and in pops BettySoo. She has an elfin look to her – small in stature, with a red motorcycle helmet that fits like a mushroom cap on her head. Once the headgear comes off, she's transformed into BettySoo, singer-songwriter.

At 30, BettySoo – one word, two names – has a new CD out, Heat Sin Water Skin, and she's busy promoting it. She's a relatively recent entry into the class of Texas-raised singer-songwriters, settling in Austin and moving to the top of her sophomore class with this beautifully crafted work produced by Gurf Morlix. Consider Heat Sin Water Skin a major exam for which she will receive high marks.

As always, the inescapable topic of conversation circles around to how a young Korean woman born of immigrant parents makes all-American music, especially an Asian in the Caucasian persuasion of folk and pop. The answer's almost as obvious as the question. She's BettySoo, and she's here to stay.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
'Let Me Love You'

It's 2005, and Let Me Love You is BettySoo's debut, a tender freshman offering with ballads of broken hearts and betrayal. Releasing it comes a few years after graduating college and not long after marriage. Growing up as the third of four daughters of Korean émigrés, her work ethic is theirs. They made the journey from Korea to America not long before she was born, finally settling in Spring, Texas, outside Houston.

"Austin's a blue dot on a red sea, and my parents are very devoted Republicans, something I understand," offers the singer. "Since I was a toddler, they've run a Medicaid clinic. They're both physicians; she's a pediatrician; he's internal medicine. They have worked in this poor neighborhood my whole life across the street from a hospital. They're exceptional people.

"They get paid pennies on the dollar and put us four girls through college, in addition to other kids. They just straight up paid for other kids to go to college. They live a modest, humble life, and they've taught me to give what you have. Music is my career, and there's not a lot of money, but if I can make other people give and give them something of value back, that's what life is about."

Like Alejandro Escovedo, BettySoo came to music late despite being surrounded by it growing up. Everyone in her family knew how to play an instrument, and all members sang in church and at home. BettySoo took piano lessons, violin lessons, oboe lessons, and flute lessons and says she failed miserably at them all. One of her sisters excelled at piano, and that underscored the feeling that perhaps BettySoo had another destiny. In 1996, she moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas as an English major. Along the way, she picked up the guitar.

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'Little Tiny Secrets'

Little Tiny Secrets came out in 2007, accompanied by an EP, Never the Pretty Girl, and in one great swoop, BettySoo had arrived. The CD burst with her renewed purpose, a sophomore effort that paid off in myriad ways through personal and artistic growth. The EP was something different. Intended as a bonus disc, it benefits the International Justice Mission, a human-rights agency securing justice for victims of violent oppression. The recording happened because BettySoo found herself with an extra day in the studio.

"They're one-take songs. We took them as a band; we didn't correct them.

"I really wanted to make a portion of my business for charity and thought that was a practical way to do it, like: 'Here's a little extra money in the budget. If I just donate it, that's great, but if I budget for a product I can sell and give that money to a charity, then so many more people benefit.' The charity gets money, and people get music."

BettySoo's words ring with sincerity. It's the payback for the lessons her parents taught her.

"Friends would come over to my house when I was young, and they couldn't understand why we had a gigantic drawer full of yogurt cups. My mom was like: 'Why buy Tupperware? We have more containers than we know what to do with!' I thought that was crazy, and it was embarrassing to me.

"Now, in my kitchen, there's a giant drawer full of yogurt cups."
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'Heat Sin Water Skin'

Heat Sin Water Skin highlight "Never the Pretty Girl" is a song of uncommon depth and emotion. It's that rare, anthemic composition likely to stay at the top of her catalog for life. Its lyrics of the raw pain of youth that never truly goes away are tender and provocative, and it seems uniquely, if unsurprisingly, a hit with women.

"For whatever reason, people didn't catch on to liking 'Never the Pretty Girl' until after it was on the EP, although Gurf [Morlix] got it immediately.

"In a way, I'm grateful 'Never the Pretty Girl' wasn't on the last album, but there was a long time I regretted not batting harder for it, not knowing it was one of my best songs and needed to be on the album. I think inside I knew it, but I didn't fight for it. And I've been so afraid of fighting for something and being wrong that there are a lot of battles I've given up.

"What was really refreshing and scary was that Gurf didn't want to rechart or reshape anything. He didn't suggest I add an extra solo here or do that there. He wanted me to drive the car. I was so scared the first couple times I had to sit down and start playing music with him. I thought, 'I know he's got an opinion, and he's not telling me what it is.'"

For his part, Gurf Morlix is a little perplexed that he and BettySoo are perceived as an unlikely collaboration. Morlix is legendary for delivering a deeper, rootsier sound to the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Mary Gauthier, and Robert Earl Keen, to name a few.

"I don't know why anyone would think it odd that I would choose to work with BettySoo," Morlix mused via e-mail. "I've seen that written in a few places. I listened to her music, and she had great songs and a great voice that puts them across well. My goal is never to 'drive the car,' but to help the artist achieve their goal – to make the best possible album."

And that's what they've achieved.

"He wanted me to take ownership," BettySoo stresses about the sessions for Heat. "To be able to hold it up and say, 'This is mine.'"

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Four Little Tiny Secrets about BettySoo

Soo is her middle name.

She hated piano lessons.

She was born in the Bronx.

Her parents insist on paying cover to her shows.

- Margaret Moser - Austin Chronicle, June 2009


BettySoo has released her fourth album, Lie To Me, in 2011. It is an acoustic duo project with Canadian Dobro master Doug Cox.

Her third studio album, Heat Sin Water Skin, produced by Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier) was released in 2009 and is her most recent solo release (recorded with band).

BettySoo released her second full-length album, Little Tiny Secrets, along with her 4-song EP, Never the Pretty Girl, in the fall of 2007, and her debut album, Let Me Love You, was released in 2005.



Not much about BettySoo isn’t surprising. People are surprised just to see her take the stage. Plain-faced, petite (she’s five foot exactly), and freckly, people don’t have any idea what to expect – they certainly don’t expect such a large voice and moving songs. “I guess Asian-American singer-songwriters aren’t all that common,” she comments, “at least, not in Texas.” In fact, she regularly gets greeted after her shows with praise comparing her music and vocals to everyone from Ruthie Foster to Sheryl Crow to Alison Krauss.

Her newest release, Lie To Me, is a duo collaboration with Canadian Dobro master Doug Cox. BettySoo and Doug Cox might seem an unlikely pair. One hails from the cadre of songwriters living in Austin, Texas, the other from the paradisiacal reaches of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The two musicians met while teaching at Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp, where they discovered a shared fondness for good songs.

Living 2,500 miles apart (a couple airplane flights plus a long ferry ride) and working in different musical worlds aren’t circumstances that make for convenient collaboration. But their friendship and musical respect were immediate, as they found countless familiar threads in the people and music they admired. Some songs they shared were penned by writers celebrated around the world, others were lesser-known, and still others were written by dear friends. BettySoo and Doug decided to create a show built around the stories and work of their mostly-unsung heroes.

Raised in Texas, BettySoo grew up hearing the names and music of certain Texas icons – characters like Doug Sahm, who lived on Vancouver Island for two years in the 1980's after visiting his friend Doug Cox. It was during Sahm’s time on the Island that he penned “Louis Riel” and fashioned the idea of returning to Texas to form the Texas Tornados. Cox was road manager for the first tour leading to the formation of the now legendary band. “The touring and recording BettySoo and I do is based on all the stories and songs we have each collected over years of being surrounded by great characters.” says Cox.

With Heat Sin Water Skin, BettySoo added some welcome edge and grit to the heartbreaker ballads and bell-pure vocals she’s come to be known for. Teamed with seasoned producer Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier, Slaid Cleaves), BettySoo made a record worth sitting up and paying attention to. Her vocals are striking, the players are strong, the sound is compelling, and her writing captivating.

Her first two studio albums (Let Me Love You, 2005; Little Tiny Secrets, 2007) and EP (Never the Pretty Girl, 2007 – sold for charity) were well received by critics, earning praise locally and nationally and securing her performance opportunities overseas, and she hasn't slowed down since. The acclaim for Heat Sin Water Skin has been widespread, with in-store play at Starbucks stores nationwide, lots of radio coverage, and positively glowing reviews in both the U.S. and Europe.

In her short career, BettySoo has earned multiple songwriting awards (including Kerrville New Folk, Wildflower! Festival, Sisters Folk Festival & Big Top Chautauqua Songwriter of the Year). She has proven herself an engaging and hilarious performer as well, invited back to perform at all fore aforementioned festivals, in addition to being billed at the Vancouver Island Music Festival, Nashville's Tin Pan South, Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, and Old Settler's Music Festival. She also enjoys teaching workshops on a variety of subjects including singing and different aspects of songwriting, at Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp and Sisters Americana Song Academy.

And of course, there’s the whole issue of her name. How did a second-generation Korean end up with such a classic southern name? Is it a stage name? “No,” she answers, laughing, “I guess I’m just lucky that way. It’s right there on my birth certificate. Soo is my dad’s middle name, too. Yep, he’s a boy named Soo.”