Formerly the voice of the internationally successful band K’s Choice, Belgian-born Sarah Bettens has made only modest progress in her efforts to garner wider solo recognition on this side of the Atlantic. Her last effort, Shine, showed she had the potential; with songs that veered from quiet contemplation to full-throttle rockers – aided and abetted by a bittersweet vocal informed by wistful reflection – Shine’s songs appeared immediately engaging. Think Carole King’s effusive optimism tempered by the guarded desire of Jewel and Fiona Apple.
This time around, Bettens takes a more sinewy route, adapting an approach that finds her keeping company with classic torch singers like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and other divas of a barroom variety. Bettens recorded several of these songs before a live audience, and judging by an audible audience response, she was well received. She ups the familiarity factor by covering a pair of standards – “Cry Me a River” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” – but even her originals strike an immediate connection courtesy of her sultry, seductive vocals and unobtrusive piano-based arrangements. In fact, Bettens’ voice oozes emotion and the quiet nocturnal settings suggest that the introspection suits her well. Never Say Goodbye may not represent the grand hello she needs to increase her following, but it does affirm the fact she’s clearly arrived.