Grooves & Cuts Laura Benitez

REVIEW: Laura Benitez and the Heartache “California Centuries”


Laura Benitez and the Heartache — California Centuries

When she lived in Los Angeles, Laura Benitez appeared in soap operas and commercials. In 2004, she moved to the San Francisco area and dove into the local Americana music scene. To say nothing of her acting skills, the move toward music was the right one.

On the band’s previous two albums, Benitez showed that she has a captivating voice that was made to sing country songs. The band’s two previous albums are filled with songs that you can sing along with and will most likely have you looking for a dance partner. The new album California Centuries features plenty of the honky-tonk goodness you’d expect from this band while also blending in a fair amount of rock.

“Are You Using Your Heart” is a spectacular example of how Benitez can sing a honky-tonk classic. The melody is pure California country with plenty of steel guitar that would make Buck Owens proud. In it, Benitez tells the story of a guy at the corner of the bar who is three drinks in and she just knows he’s going to make a move. Not only that, she knows exactly what he’s going to say and can’t be bothered with it. This is a song that is ready-made for dancing around the hardwood floor of a honky-tonk.

The end of a relationship is well-worn material for the subject of a song. Still, there are ways to put a different spin on a familiar theme, and Benitez does just that on “Plaid Shirt.” Over a melody made for slow dancing, she sings about someone leaving behind his favorite plaid shirt. It’s reminiscent of “She’s Got you” when she sings, “Maybe she doesn’t like it as much as I do. Maybe she’s look got a brand new looked planned out for you.”

“Gaslight (We Shouldn’t Talk about It)” is a song that hits like a punch to the sternum. While the melody is just as danceable as other songs on the album, the subject matter hits hard. In it, Benitez sings about victims of mass shootings, which is heavy enough. But then she slaps the listener with the lyrics “Our thoughts and prayers are with them. God bless the NRA. That’s the price of freedom that we all have to pay.”

“Invisible” is another song with a catchy beat and a message that you can’t ignore. It’s not so much a song as it is a declaration. The subject of the song is one who attempts to make the narrator feel insignificant. Again, she delivers a lyrical punch when she sings, “Whether you like what I am, I’m going to be it. It’s my life and I won’t live small. I’d rather die than be invisible.”

California Centuries by Laura Benitez and The Heartache is an album filled with songs that will get you moving, whether or not you have a dance partner. It is also the perfect album to present to those jaded souls who declare that country music is dead. Benitez sings real country songs in a voice reminiscent of some of the best voices in the history of country music. The album will be available everywhere on September 9.

Find the music and more information here:

Enjoy our earlier mention of the album here:  Bentley’s Bandstand: September 2022   and here: Grooves & Cuts August 2022

Laura Benitez – acoustic guitar, vocals
Bob Spector – acoustic and electric guitar, bass
Russel Kiel – bass
Steve Pearson – drums
Dave Zirbel – steel guitar
Ian Sutton – steel guitar, Dobro
Amy Scher – fiddle
Brian Kilgore – harmony vocals
Sarah Schweppe – harmony vocals

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