Monday, May 11, 2015

Kara Grainger - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 8 May 2015

That Kara Grainger knows what she’s about is evident from her sound alone.  When she appears at the Voodoo Rooms, strapping on an acoustic guitar, I’m surprised to see that her band features bass, drums and keyboards, but not a second guitar to create a bit more substance.  But it turns out that she creates a satisfyingly full guitar sound on her own account, thanks very much, particularly when she adds some slide into the mix.  Later on she cranks things up a notch with the aid of a Strat, but the sense of balance is retained.
It’s a sound that makes comparisons with Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi inevitable, as she bridges country blues and melodic soul of the Paul Carrack variety.  And if Grainger’s guitar playing is accomplished, her voice is the perfect tool for the job in hand, full of light and shade, and delivered with impeccable control.
Kara Grainger directs operations
The other key element in the Kara Grainger equation is the songs, which are perfectly weighted to fit that countrified blues-meets-melodic aesthetic.  She seamlessly blends together her own songs with covers going right back to the roots of the blues, such as Robert Johnson’s ‘Come On In Kitchen’ and ‘Love In Vain’.  Contrasting highlights include the downright delicious ‘Lost In You’, and the punchiest moment of the set, ‘Little Pack Of Lies’.
She warms up as the set progresses, especially perhaps once she’s been delivered a whisky by one of the audience.  But there remains a sense that she’s playing within herself, and I’d love to see her let loose now and then, to go to the edge.  Perhaps this is a consequence of doing this tour with a young British pick-up band.  She evidently has them well-drilled, as they respond to her signals without batting an eyelid, but they don’t give the impression that they could offer much in the way of spontaneity. Which is a shame, because as impressive as this performance was, I sense that Kara Grainger has a lot more in the tank.
The Rising Souls opened the evening with a short set that generated an increasingly warm audience response, and deservedly so.  The Edinburgh trio, playing guitar, bass, and box and percussion, served up a bunch of rootsy, soulful original songs featuring standout vocals from Dave Archibald.  I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wanting to see and hear more from them in future.
Piranha Blues followed up with a breezy set of classic covers, delivered with swing and wit and some original arrangements.  Have to say I still prefer Van Halen’s version of ‘Ice Cream Man’, but I particularly enjoyed ‘Just A Little Bit’, which brought back memories of Clarksdale, MS – of which more another time.

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