When We’re Gone

In her nine years as a recording artist, Austin’s BettySoo has made albums more stylistically varied (2007’s delightful Little Tiny Secrets) and more self-consciously hard-edged (2009’s Gurf Morlix-produced Heat Sin Water Skin) — but she’s never made a record more unremittingly, deeply moving than When We’re Gone. Co-produced with Brian Standefer, whose haunting cello underpins and enhances nearly every track, it’s an album steeped in melancholia and somber reflection but illuminated throughout by the redemptive beauty of BettySoo’s voice — an instrument of striking purity and control arguably unrivaled by anything in the folk world this side of Judy Collins. Her melodies and lyrics throughout are equally arresting, painting vivid still lifes of quiet desperation (“100 Different Ways of Being Alone,” “The Things She Left Town With”), terms of endearment (“When We’re Gone”), and unfathomable sadness (the devastating “Nothing Heals a Broken Heart,” which opens with the Jesus-wept line, “We took your seat out of the car after a couple of weeks/But your room is still unchanged …”). Most stirring of all though, is “Josephine,” an empathetic portrait of an aspiring (in more ways than one) songbird in which BettySoo sings the line “like an angel singing a lover’s prayer” exactly like, well, that. Absolutely guaranteed to take your breath away. — RICHARD SKANSE