Thursday, October 27, 2011

World Tour: Long Bed From Kenya

Betty Elders: Long Bed From Kenya


Between 1981 and 1995, Betty Elders released four albums that show her to be a very talented songwriter. Four albums in fourteen years is not a lot, but that turned out to be it. From the fact that she sung back-up on Norwegian artist Roy Lonhoiden's three albums, I’m guessing that Elders may have relocated to Norway no later than 2004, but that is just a guess. What I know is that Elders has an album’s worth of unreleased songs on her website. If anyone knows why Elders has not done an album in her own name in so long, please let us know in the comments.

Songs like Long Bed From Kenya are why I wish Elders would do more. Long Bed sounds at first like a song about growing older in a relationship. But, in the second verse, Elders adds a key detail. While the singer feels herself growing older, her partner remains smitten with a woman he met on a long ago trip to Kenya. The narrator ages, but the woman in the memory never does. The long bed sent home from that trip serves as a constant reminder to the narrator of a competition she can never hope to win. The story is told in just a few economical lines, but the emotional resonance is strong.

This performance of Long Bed comes from a mainstage performance of the song at the 1998 Kerrville Folk Festival. Elders also recorded a more fully arranged version of the song on her last album Crayons. But this version, with just voice and guitar, puts the focus on the songwriting, and it holds up just fine.

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