‘Undercover’ is the third album from Mississippi-born Bronwynne Brent. It’s a shift away from the folky Americana sound of her previous albums, ‘Deep Dark Water’ (2011) and ‘Stardust’ (2014) into the jazzy sounds of a cocktail-soaked New Orleans club night. Brent’s voice really shines through for this style of music: she’s been compared to Amy Winehouse, Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday.
Album opener ‘I Know it’s Late’ saunters in confidently with a jaunty backbeat, brass and organ. Brent delivers the lyrics with an almost sultry snarl to her voice: “when you kiss me like you do, I know I’m going to marry you”. There’s a stripped-back, emotionally drenched break up song in ‘Raincoat’. The scat singing in it is reminiscent of crying and this, layered with simple guitar makes for a beautifully melancholy track. The lyrics are bitter: “I gave you my heart, don’t give it back to me…it’s yours for the smashing”.
To follow this track with the Jaques Brel cover ‘If You Go Away’ certainly does nothing to lift the mood. Another really stripped backtrack that really showcases Brent’s voice. She brings just the right amount of drama to the song juxtaposing it with moments of raw emotion. ‘Big Talker’ is another depressing song about a relationship but it’s delivered with a smooth ‘60s vibe and a hit of country in there. Brent effortlessly pulls back the strong jazz-soaked delivery to something much purer.
‘Lost in the Moonlight’ takes us right back to that nightclub, Brent summons the voodoo vibes of deep south with the tantalising lyrics “Kiss me you fool, I won’t bite…tonight I’m going to make you mine…can’t you feel the power, they call it the witching hour”. The guitar, piano and brass prowl around the lyrics. You can almost smell the absinthe.
‘Undercover’ manages to transport the listener into the jazzy heart of the Mississippi delta while not losing balance with fantastic vocals and stripped back folk music.