Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Kyla Brox - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 22 February 2019

The lady can sing, no two ways about it.  We often talk about vocals being powerful, but what Kyla Brox has, it seems to me is vocal strength – range, control and richness all coming together with soulfulness and clarity.  She’s got a box of tricks at her disposal too, in the form of songbird falsetto and a capacity for swooping, somersaulting vocal twists and turns, though she’s sensibly measured in their use.  She’s also got a warm and winning personality, and is evidently very comfortable as a performer – maybe too comfortable at times, but we’ll get to that later.
Kyla Brox - lady sings the blues
Her skills are evident in bluesy fashion on ‘Change Your Mind’, on which she also contributes some flute playing – and it’s a big grown up flute, by the by, with a warm sound that contrasts with the piercing, roaming guitar solo from Paul Farr that follows, as a precursor to a huge vocal finish.
The heart of their sound is soul-funk, ranging across the Latin feel of the brief ‘Devil’s Bridge’, the funky ‘Little Of Your Love’, on which hubby Danny Blomeley contributes a well bendy bass solo, and new single ‘Don’t Let Me Fall’, which opens in minimalist, ballad-like fashion before picking up into sweet soul.  ‘Choose Me’ adds a further variation with an Atlantic soul feel driven by a snapping backbeat from Mark Warburton, while Farr adds a fizzing, rock’n’rolling solo.
Now this kind of stuff, while very good in its own terms, doesn’t necessarily stretch Brox, while now and then Farr treads a mite too close to slick jazziness for my palate. In other words it can all get a bit comfy.  But there’s a welcome shift of gears after the interval, in the form of ‘If You See Him’. Starting off as stripped back blues, with Brox getting into a real old-fashioned Delta mood, it takes off into a gutsy, walloping instrumental section, with coruscating wah-wah guitar from Farr, before Brox gives it large to close the song out.
Their second set ranges from the rollicking, near jump blues of ‘Bluesman’s Child’, on which Kyla tells us what it was like to grow up with bluesman Victor Brox as her dad, to the slowie ‘Honestly Blues’, on which she delivers bursts of falsetto while Farr offers a varied, emotionally charged solo.  Meanwhile ‘For The Many’, which has a political dimension to its lyrics, is strident funk with lots of stonking bass work from Blomeley, and ‘Pain & Glory’, the title track from the forthcoming new album, is a soul ballad on which Brox demonstrates outstanding vocal control, peaking in another jetstream of a sustained note.
At the end of the night the only covers in their set offer twin treats.  Firstly there’s the set closer ‘Wang Dang Doodle’, on which they make it clear that they know their way around raunchy R’n’B and then some.  Farr gives it a grinding, flashing bluesy solo and Blomeley adds a bass wigout, while Brox herself makes Koko Taylor seem one-dimensional and extemporises merrily over a singalong for good measure – stylistically it’s a great fit for her.  Then for an encore they choose an entirely different path with Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ – it’s a daring, dramatic choice, kicking off with just guitar and vocals, and they do it spellbinding justice, conjuring a rapt silence from the audience as they bring it to a close.
Blue Milk - rough as an entertaining badger's bahookey
Rapt silence is not the modus operandi of support band Blue Milk.  The Glasgow-based four-piece are down and dirty purveyors of raw electrified blues.  They may give Junior Kimbrough’s ‘All Night Long’ a sombre opening, but soon they crash headlong into it, and if drummer Taylor Whyte doesn’t emulate the style of a Cedric Burnside he still builds up an impressive head of steam, dovetailing with a strong bass groove from Ike Malinki.
They brew up a bluesy storm on a convincing reading of ‘In My Time Of Dying’, which singer and guitarist Jonny Mac attributes to Dylan, though he was almost as much a Johnny-come-lately to the song as Zeppelin.  Whatever, they know what they’re about, as their own ‘Take Me There’ confirms.  With an intricate little riff, lung-busting harp from Leo Glaister, and a convincingly picked slide solo from Mac, it’s rough as a badger’s bahookey – in a good way.
They’ve got a couple of other authentic originals in their locker too.  ‘Lord Knows I’m Trying’ has a scratchy vibe and generates impressive intensity towards its close, while ‘Moonshine’ is all rumble, wail and spikiness. The crowd are well up for a swinging blast through Elmore James’ ‘Dust My Broom’, with jangling, crunching slide from Mac, and they bring the right kind of edginess to the Black Keys’ ‘Couldn’t Tie Me Down’.
I know bugger all about Blue Milk, but they have an air of scratched vinyl, annoying the neighbours with loud music at two in the morning, and a determination to do something different. I liked ‘em.

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