Sunny Ozell, The Islington, London, 4th September 2019

After various forays to the UK, Ms. Ozell is currently undertaking a short tour, this time as the headliner, with a full band in tow, ahead of the launch of her new album, ‘Overnight Lows’, due for release this winter. She is a real extrovert; feisty and outspoken, and has a varied life passage to draw on, from performing as a teenager at low key dives in Boulder, Colorado when she doctored her driving licence data to meet the ID requirements, to life amidst British thespians as she is the wife of Patrick Stewart. Hailing originally from Reno, Nevada, she is classically trained but it is primarily blues influences that are foremost in much of her set tonight, with elements of jazz and some tinges of 1970s pop. It is not too far from a Woodstock hotch potch, fittingly as that influential touchstone has just marked its 50th anniversary.

She was backed tonight by a mainly UK-sourced band (Pete Harper, keys; Mark Stepro, drums; Greig Robinson, bass; Sam Lewis and Zak Hobbs, guitars) all interacting well having only recently joined up with her. Harper in particular is a strong presence, both physically, with the keyboards set up at front of stage, and aurally as the keys are the drivers of much of the set. ‘Git Gone’ opened with its slick, rollicking boogie followed by the much slower ‘Comes And It Goes’, which, at a pinch, could be a mid 1970s Radio One chart single. ‘Saint Ursula’ was based on an Anglo-Saxon saint, an early example of Welsh feminism whom Ozell has dug up for inspiration while “I Saw The Light’ was a strong song with a tugging melodic harmonised chorus. In a similar vein, ‘The Garden’ impressed with its melodious refrain, “Walk out in the garden tonight.”

There were a clutch of bluesy songs,  ‘All That I Am’,’ Move Along Train’, ‘Not Afraid’, and ‘Love Me Like A Man’, interspersed with the new single ‘Driving Highways’, perhaps the most quintessentially Americana song of the night and one of the more lyrically inventive, the setting being the Nevada roads which Ozell recalls from her past. The set closed with a fine version of Leon Russell’s ‘Manhattan Island Serenade’.

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