Friday 2nd March 2018, The Live Room, Saltaire. The return of the Mississippi Delta’s Bronwynne Brent. Accompanied by Mario Caribé on upright bass and Graeme Stephen on guitar. I was lucky enough to watch the sound check, or rather a complete rehearsal of every song played. I would have been a very happy bunny having just watched that but was very glad I was also there for the entire show. The quality of both Mario and Graeme showed not only in the ease with which they picked up all her songs but also how they enhanced once the show started.
Bronwynne often has her voice compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Billie Holliday and more but to me the best way to describe her voice is that of Bronwynne Brent, she has her own very distinctive voice which really does encompass all the usual hackneyed clichés of strong but vulnerable, earthy, bluesy, jazz tinged etc. She really is all those and more. She has the X factor and The Voice in their true sense, not the recognised commercially packaged varieties. What she does have is an ability to make you stop and listen intently. It’s often dark but still uplifting. Again the cliché of a voice stopping you in your tracks is very true. I don’t think it would matter if she was playing to The Live Room crowd or a much larger auditorium, the effect would still be the same.
Not only did Mario and Graeme learn the songs but once the performance was underway they improvised and adlibbed bringing smiles to each other’s faces as they surprised each other and the audience with astonishing deft touches, improvisation and virtuosity both on bass and on Graeme’s Gibson 175, the jazz guitar of choice to many. Graeme not only putting in delicate guitar breaks but also at time electronic lush sound effects.
Bronwynne is incredibly self-deprecating and very , very candid on stage, some nights she must wonder just what she has said on stage during the performance, the audience love it. I don’t think that will stop her though. The first set opened with “Devil Again” and consisted mainly of songs from her first 2 albums with two new ones “Big Talker” and “Lost in the Moonlight” from the forthcoming, as yet untitled album. It was hoped it would be available for this tour but sadly no.
Set 2 opened with “Dark Highway” and “Already Gone” before going into the very jazz tinged “I Know It’s Late”, another new song. The band carried on the wonderful level of the first set. The show finished with a traditional broadside probably about 200 years old with various titles, tonight’s was Lily of The West. First well-known recording by Joan Baez in 1960, covered by many since.
Many had seen her last time around, but many were new to Bronwynne’s music. Most will be firm fans after the show, the warmth of the music made the effort of going out on a very cold, snowy and icy Yorkshire night very rewarding. Some gigs were cancelled so we got lucky in that ours went ahead.
Bronwynne appears in Leeds next Saturday 10th March at Seven Arts. I heard more than a few people considering going to see that show too. I shall certainly be there. Some of the gigs on the tour will be duos but based on Friday’s performance they will only just keep getting better as the tour progresses. Our Lady of Mississippi is a rare talent and well, well worth seeing live.
Review and photos by Keith Belcher