Separating from producer Kevin Shirley for the first time in three records, Beth Hart chose to work with Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens for 2015's Better Than Home. A change in producers helped Hart change direction, letting her depart from the down-and-dirty blues belting she specialized in throughout her time with Shirley, reconnecting slightly to her singer/songwriter beginning while emphasizing deep soul roots. Despite opening with the tight Memphis groove of "Might as Well Smile," most of the album is grandly introspective -- majestic brooding ballads with a clear debt to early Elton John. This cinematic landscape provides a nice contrast to Hart's raw, nervy vocals, accentuating the aching in her delivery. This emotional immediacy compensates for the sometimes elliptical songs, songs that take a little while to settle, but the risks Hart's taken on Better Than Home pay off: this is a distinctive, ambitious record that takes advantage of her natural talents in surprising ways.