Three years after it was meant to go ahead, Bronwynne Brent hit Glasgow’s Glad Café to fulfil a date which was nixed due to Covid, the singer having to grab a fast cab back to Mississippi mid tour in order to sit out the pandemic at home.
Anyhow, here she was, accompanied by her trusty double bass player and vocal foil, Scots/Brazilian Mario Caribe while tonight was the debut of Scots guitar player David Series, called in at the last moment when original guitarist Graham Steven had to call off. Series, a jazz player, had only met his stage companions earlier in the day and it’s to his credit that he proved to be much more than a capable stand-in as his numerous solos testified.
There wasn’t a support act tonight with the trio playing two sets. They relied heavily on Brent’s last album ‘Undercover ‘which she was promoting when her tour went belly up due to that bug. However it was a song from her 2014 album ‘Stardust’ which opened the night as ‘Heart’s On Fire’ leapt from the stage. A mid tempo folk like song, reminiscent of Greenwich Village days, it immediately set the scene for what was to follow with Series’ jazz inflected guitar runs underpinning Brent’s excellent voice. She is indeed quite a magnificent singer. Reviews are crammed with comparisons but it’s hard to define her. Suffice to say that, in marked contrast to her excitable (and wickedly funny) in between song spiels, her singing voice is warm and honeyed. Never strained, she inhabits the songs, be they Child ballad like folk songs or sepia stained jazz and R’n’B relics. At one point tonight she says that jazz is her favourite music and it’s obvious from the selection of covers that she knows her way around dusty record bins as she gave us renditions of Chuck Wills’ ‘What You Gonna Do When Your Baby Leaves You’, Mel Tillis’ ‘Sweet Mental Revenge’ and, especially, a fantastic version of ‘Niki Hoeky’, a swamp rock song covered by many. Brent mentioned Bobby Rush’s take on it as her inspiration but her delivery owed more to Bobbie Gentry’s version as she aped quite brilliantly Gentry’s vocal elaborations, almost scatting at times. In addition, you just have to love a song which has the word copacetic in it.
As for her own songs, Brent can chill and enchant. ‘Deep Black Water’ flowed quite wonderfully with a Pentangle like folk complexity to it while the darkly gothic ‘Devil Again’ was quite spooky. ‘Raincoat’, a song she says she still has to pin down to her satisfaction in the studio, had a Melanie like simplicity to it as Brent took aim at an ex lover who, it has to be said, had it coming to him. ‘Know It’s Late’ was a fine vamp with jazzy undertones while ‘Don’t Tell Your Secrets To The Wind’ had a beguiling whiff of tango like exotica to it along with a touch of bossa nova. Talking of which, bass player Caribe’s Brazilian homeland was nodded to when the trio played a delightful version of ‘O Barquinho (My Little Boat)’ with Brent, again, owning the song vocally.
The trio ended the night with a deep dredge into the past as they played their version of Nellie Lutcher’s ‘Reaching For The Moon’ which allowed Brent to completely wallow in her vocal dexterity. A rapid call for an encore didn’t allow them to leave the stage and they obliged with an enthusiastic and energetic delivery of Bill Withers’ ‘Use Me’ with Brent again in total command as the trio laid out their funky folk beat reminding one of the opening song. A circle closed and a perfect end to what was an excellent night.