Sunday, March 20, 2016

Dani Wilde - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 18 March 2016


It’s been a hard day’s night all week, and I have to admit that when I turned up to see Dani Wilde at the Voodoo Rooms I wasn’t altogether sure she’d be the tonic that I needed.  But by the end of the night I’ve concluded that not liking Dani Wilde just isn’t a viable proposition.
On the DW albums I’d heard in advance, 2011’s Shine and last year’s Songs About You, the focal point generally seemed to be her vocals, which often seemed to veer towards the
Dani Wilde - a woman who enjoys her work
winsome and tricksy.  But she catches me on the hop right from the off tonight, as she smiles her way through the chugging good time boogie of ‘Rock Me Right’, which at once shifts the focus to her idiosyncratic pick-free guitar style.
Her softer side is still in evidence, as she picks up an acoustic guitar and shows off some impressive vocal dynamics on ‘Glorious Day’, with its tasteful echoes of ‘Try A Little Tenderness’.
Jon Chase on bass  and Jack Bazzani on drums provide low key but solid support for Wilde’s guitar playing, and it’s noticeable that when her brother Will Wilde joins them on harp he gives the sound even stronger foundations.  ‘Call On Me’ features a neat vibrato intro from him, and later a gutsy solo to complement another impressive lead guitar workout from his sister.  There’s a hint of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ in the bridge, which is perhaps what prompts her to tag on a slice of his ‘Friend Of Mine’ as a basis for a singalong.
The first half of the set yields another highlight with the slow blues of ‘Abandoned Child’, on which Will Wilde’s harp again adds some muscle, and the second half keeps up the momentum with the satisfyingly Jimmy Reed-like R’n’B of ‘Little By Little’, followed by the rocking ‘Mississippi Kisses’, on which Chase finds an enjoyable bass groove and Wilde indulges in some scat singing.
Brother Will adds some muscle
Wilde’s vocal gymnastics do get an airing on the sensitive ‘Loving You’, where she overdoes her penchant for breathy yelps, but it’s a pleasure to find that throughout the show she generally sidelines the mannerisms apparent on record.  Consequently ‘Angel Of Montgomery’, made famous by Bonnie Raitt, is allowed to stand on its own merits as the touching song that it is.
There’s something rather incongruous about Wilde, with her girlish south coast speaking voice, introducing ‘Let Me Show You’ with the explanation that it’s about the desire to instruct a younger man in how a woman wants to be loved.  Musically though, it’s a plenty entertaining romp through Chuck Berry rock’n’roll territory, and paves the way for a strong finish.  ‘Red Blooded Woman’ is a slow and seductive blues stomp that aspires to Etta James territory, and they proceed to get all funky with a rendition of Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’.
Frankly I’d rather hear Wilde tackle something fresher than ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ for her final encore.  It’s a great song of course, but it’s overdone, and she has plenty worthwhile material of her own draw on, as a subsequent listen to 2012's Juice Me Up confirms.
Dani Wilde has the capability to explore a lot of roots music avenues, but that may make it a  challenge to mould a coherent sound.  Songs About You revealed strengths with country-tinged personal material, notwithstanding the overuse of that vocal box of tricks.  This show, with brother Will guesting on harp, shows off her enthusiasm for soul-infused blues, but  I reckon a slide-playing extra guitarist wouldn’t go amiss to add more bottom and grit to her sound.
Whatever.  Dani Wilde’s enjoyment of what she does is infectious, and plenty of tonight’s audience walked out with smiles on their faces.

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