How an unassuming and talented artist from the Mississippi Delta ends up playing at venues such as the cosy and intimate Ritz Acoustic Club in Burnham on Sea is one of the great joys of the music business and a real treat for us music lovers. Appearing with Johnny Sangster (Guitar), the Seattle based producer of her last album Stardust and Brit, Jay Darwish (Bass), Bronwynne Brent brought her fabulous songs to life in this windy corner of Somerset.
Thursday evenings are Open Mic night at the Ritz so Bronwynne was in the company of acoustic aficionados, some of whom had already showcased their own particular talents by way as warm up for this stranger from out of town. As an artist with a self-confessed love of playing small, intimate settings this was the perfect venue for her.
Opening with Wreck My Mind & Like The Thunder, two songs from Deep Black Water, her first album, Bronwynne instantly charmed the audience, not just with her unique voice and penchant for melancholy and thoughtful lyrics, but also with her self-effacing links in-between songs. Bronwynne is not one for the limelight and right from the off she was only too keen, (some might say desperate!), to ensure her fellow performers shared equal footing, more than once expressing her eternal gratitude for Johnny’s presence alongside her. The fact that back home she tends to play alone made her even more comfortable tonight in their company.
As a self-confessed sufferer of stage fright, Bronwynne demonstrated absolutely no evidence of this in her pitch perfect performance. The Mirror is an excellent track and highlights the subtle changes of tempo that are often present in her songs. Another song from that first album, Building a Wall, had Bronwynne explaining that, up until a few months ago, she used to introduce that song with a joke about Trump. She admitted that it doesn’t seem so funny anymore!
The highlight of the evening for this reviewer was an immaculate playing of Heartbreaker, a bitter sweet song from the Stardust album that stands out as a gem on an album full of great songs.
The biggest cheer of the night was in response to a Sister Rosetta classic, Two Little Fishes. Confessing that she gets bored playing her own music all the time, Bronwynne also brought excellent versions of a Chuck Willis song Whatcha Gonna Do and No Moon At All, a song covered by such luminaries as Doris Day, Julie London and Nat King Cole.
Thankfully allowed Johnny to demonstrate his fine guitar playing as the song was ‘bluesed’ up for the evening and the understated but high quality accompaniment from both he and Jay were a feature of the evening. At 90 minutes, this was a set that sat quality alongside quantity and not one of the rapt audience could complain of being short changed.
Bronwynne Brent is a talent. It is a talent that doesn’t like to shout too loudly about itself so it is left to us outsiders to do it for her. This charming and natural artist who suffers from stage fright and a lack of self-confidence with regard to her music deserves to be heard and championed.
Well said, Peter – she played to another capacity (and ecstatic) crowd in Beverley last night and she’s sensing the love, support and encouragement she’s getting along the way…Thanks for helping to share the word! Bob Harris has been paying her compliments again too – “There’s something very haunting and captivating about her voice,” he told listeners, adding: “I absolutely LOVE her music!” Of course, here at AmericanaUK, folks are already well aware of her talent and she won the Best Female Performer of 2016 in the annual Readers’ Poll (for the second year running)