Bronwynne Brent Celtic Connections, Tron Theatre, Glasgow. January 31
by Paul Kerr
OK, a bit late on this but for some reason this review wasn’t published when submitted originally. Given that it was Bronwynne’s UK debut and that Blabber’n’Smoke really dug her album I thought it worthwhile to revive it………
A UK debut here for Mississippi raised Bronwynne Brent and before we say anything else a triumph over adversity as Brent’s initial plan to bring over her own musicians (including her producer Johnny Sangster) fell apart leading to plan B, a scratch band who only met the singer/songwriter two days before the show. So it was that Euan Burton, double bass player with Kris Drever and guitarist Jamie Sturt from This Silent Forest were recruited, given some sound files to work with and a day’s rehearsal with Brent on her arrival on Scottish soil. Credit to them and to Brent as the trio excelled on stage sounding for all the world as if they were road veterans and companions, Burton’s bass warming the songs while Sturt was a revelation, coaxing some sublime sounds from his guitar and effects board, always sensitive to the moods of Brent’s songs.
As for Brent herself she appears on her album sleeves as a bit of a flower child, an image belied by the almost American Gothic sound of her songs. On stage she seems like an amalgamation of the younger Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, long flaxen hair and hesitant presence. She admitted to being nervous but once she started to sing, her voice, world weary and stained with echoes of Karen Dalton and at times Amy Winehouse had the house in thrall. Roaming from the dark folk of Dark Highway to tumbledown blues such as Wrecked My Mind Brent impressed as she invoked the spooky Americana feel of acts such as the Handsome Family , a feel that was bolstered by Sturt’s inventive sounds effects and guitar. A measure of the trio’s cohesion was the compelling version of Bulletproof, on Brent’s Stardust album an organ infused blues jaunt but tonight delivered in a spare manner before Sturt’s guitar sparked into life scattering aural gunshots from the stage. For a singer who was keen after the show to seek reassurance that her nervousness wasn’t too apparent one only has to point to the excellent rendition of Don’t Tell Your Secrets To The Wind delivered earlier. Mixing chanson and Calexico’s Tex-Mex style Brent was both coquettish and confidant while Burton and Sturt filled all spaces absent from the recorded version.
After this stage debut the trio headed off for a short UK tour and a Bob Harris session due to be broadcast in March. In the meantime tonight was a wonderful opportunity to catch a very fine songwriter and performer who might soon outgrow the relative confines of the bijou setting tonight.