Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Liz Jones & Broken Windows - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 18 April 2019

A pinch of this, a dash of that, and a soupcon of the other.  What you get from Liz Jones & Broken Windows is a smorgasbord of popular music stylings, tastefully drawn together to create an appetising whole. Which is probably quite enough of the food metaphor for one review.  But to put it slightly differently, their show encompasses some Laurel Canyon-ish singer-songwriter type stuff, some Latin vibes, some moments of jazziness and even chanson, and for good measure some rootsy rock redolent of the late Sixties and early
Seventies.  All of which are on the menu – sorry - in the course of this launch gig for their latest single, ‘Wendy’.
Liz Jones delivers some ooh la la with Broken Windows
Set opener ‘Strum’ typifies the richness of the sound and rhythms they conjure up, with a neatly descending, low-end guitar line, and Suzy Cargill’s percussion augmenting Gary Davidson’s drums and Rod Kennard’s bass.  The following ‘Lover’, meanwhile, sounds like something Ricky Ross might have cooked up on a thoughtful day, with Cargill supplying mandolin and a hooky ascending guitar line this time from John Bruce.
There’s subtlety aplenty in songs like ‘Wise’ and ‘Broken Windows’ itself.  The former is a dark and reflective affair, appealing in its simplicity, trusting a great deal to the depth of Liz Jones’ vocals over asubtle arrangement featuring nice touches of piano from Andy Barbour.  The latter, contrastingly, is an intricate but organic arrangement, on this occasion given added smokiness by guest sax from Jim Francey, with shimmering guitar chords giving way to a restrained but piercing solo from Bruce.  It is, it has to be said, an exceptionally well put together song.
They include a couple of judicious covers tonight. Midway they drop in JJ Cale’s ‘Funky Country Groove’, which was a new one on me but has an authentically laid back Cale feel, with Jones getting into a suitably “somewhere down the lazy river” Tupelo spirit, as Robbie Robertson might have put it.  Better still though, is their version of the Faces’ ‘Ooh La La’.  Not that there’s anything especially clever about their reading – it’s just a great fit for their set, delivered with energy, and a great solo from Bruce.
And they do different kinds of upbeat stuff well, ranging from the excellent ‘No Classic Love Song’, which is jazzy, witty and lively, with some European undertones, to ‘Wild’, which leans on an ‘All Along The Watchtower’-like chord sequence while Jones delivers a lyric about suppressed yearnings to be daring, with Bruce eventually letting rip on guitar.  Especially enjoyable though, are the straight-ahead ‘Angel’, a classy, joyful pop song driven along by fiery guitar and a great hook, and the encore ‘Wendy’, which if not as raucous as the Beatles' rooftop rock’n’roll flourishes is still great fun – as is the accompanying video.
Richard O'Donnell gives it gusto - and a big quiff
My guess is that Liz Jones has created these songs, and put together Broken Windows to play them with her, out of sheer love for making music.  As a front person she may make light of it, but you don't write stuff like this without having some awareness that you've got good musical ideas, and also a compulsion to bring them to life.  She and her gang are making fresh and interesting music for grown-ups, and good on 'em for recording it and playing it live to let others share in it. 
And if there wasn’t enough blues in all that for you, then Liz Jones had hauled in Richard O’Donnell as support to make up for it.  Aside from being an outstanding purveyor of R’n’B ivories, O’Donnell is a stonkingly good curator of old-style country blues.  Armed with a couple of resonator guitars in different tunings, he serves up an energetic solo selection of choons from the likes of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.  He delivers some beautifully controlled quiet picking on Muddy’s ‘I Feel Like Going Home’, and attacks Robert Johnson’s ‘Kind Hearted Woman’ with vocal gusto.  But best of all he closes with a bravura performance of ‘Boogie Chillen’, to warm up the audience for the rather different sounds of Liz Jones and friends.

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