The International Songwriting Competition recently announced its 2006 winners and local vocalist/pianist Bett Butler walked away with first place in the annual contest’s jazz category.
The Nashville-based ISC is generally recognized as the gold standard for songwriting contests and the 2006 competition boasted a mind-boggling panel of judges: Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Frank Black, Jerry Lee Lewis, Robert Smith of the Cure, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, Macy Gracy, John Scofield, Rosanne Cash, and others.
Butler’s entry, “When Love Has Left the Room,” is a tale of alienation so vivid that it’s a bit scary. The song is a spare bolero with a mesmerizing, repetitive piano figure that frames its breakup lament: “I hope you’ll pardon me not answering the door/ I’ve just been sitting in the dark again.” Later, Butler sings, with method-acting conviction, “Please pour yourself a drink, there’s a bottle here somewhere/ I’d get up, but as you see, I’m not too steady on my feet.”
The track makes an intriguing appetizer for Butler’s forthcoming album, Myths and Fables, produced by her husband, expert bassist Joël Dilley at their Mandala Music Production studio. Butler’s ISC victory carries with it $4,000 in prizes, including an Epiphone guitar, $200 gift certificate to Sam Ash, and a Beta 58 microphone.
Butler will perform on the Riverwalk at Swig (111 W. Crockett, #205) on Wednesday, April 4 and Thursday, April 5 with the Chamber Jazz Trio, which includes Dilley on bass and Cecil Carter on trumpet.
— Gilbert Garcia