Bronwynne Brent

Live Review | Roots Music Club, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

For almost forty years now I’ve been listening to Stuart Palmer’s distinctive voice, while watching those ten fingers traverse the strings on his vintage Martin. There’s always something instantly familiar with this combination, which provides a satisfying half-hour to get things off to a good start. Tonight was such a night, with Stuart leaving his regular position behind the mixing desk to flirt with one of his prized guitars on stage and to settle the audience down before the main course.  The entrée tonight included two new additions to Stu’s repertoire, Tom Waits’ delicious “San Diego Serenade” and Robb Johnson’s powerful statement “More Than Enough”, slotted in between some of Stu’s more familiar songs.

With the audience now suitably chilled, Bronwynne Brent returned to the Ukrainian Centre’s stage like an old friend, with her immediately recognisable Mississippi drawl and chirpy disposition fully intact.  Bronwynne set out to take everyone’s mind off the media paranoia surrounding the current pandemic with the first of two long sets packed with songs new and not so new. Flanked by two superb musicians, Brazil’s Mario Caribé on upright electric bass and assorted foot percussion and Toronto’s Kevin Barrett on electric guitar, Bronwynne’s raison d’être was to take the audience to another world, if only temporarily.

“Another World” was a fitting opener to the first set, the singer effectively sprinkling her own blend of sonic stardust upon her audience, notably the kids on the front row. If the demographic was wide tonight, then it simply demonstrates the broad appeal this songstress brings. Stylistically, Bronwynne almost casually dips her toes into an Olympic-size pool of musical genres, one minute bringing a sense of the Deep South, the next channeling Ella Fitzgerald with the jazz-tinged “Saving Myself For You”, then turning to the bossa nova feel of “My Little Boat”, for which Bronwynne requested the activation of the venue’s mirror ball, which usually hangs dormant on Roots nights. She wasn’t kidding when she said she wanted us to forget the current crisis. Bronwynne takes to Astrud Gilberto so naturally, as she leans on her guitar while her collaborators take over, especially on “How Sensitive”, which showcases Barrett’s flair as an informed jazz guitarist. In a jazz club, the solo would have surely warranted an enthusiastic applause and in all fairness, it should have received one tonight. The audience however, waited until the end of the song to show their appreciation.

The trio performed no less than nine songs from Bronwynne’s recently released third studio album Undercover, including the album opener “I Know It’s Late”, the sultry voodoo jazz of “Lost in the Moonlight” and the much covered Jacques Brel number “If You Go Away”, evoking the feel of that particular song’s worldly travels via the likes of Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey to Cyndi Lauper and Donny’s own Lesley Garrett. “This should be a James Bond song” quipped my companion.

With empathetic accompaniment from both Mario and Kevin, who can alternate between the jazz flourishes of Joe Pass and Jim Hall and the swampy slide of a Duane Allman to the distinctive twang of Chet Atkins and Merle Travis like turning on a tap. After a more than generous twenty songs, Bronwynne and her trio returned to the stage to conclude with something in the way of a Bobbie Gentry for our times, with a reading of the infectious “Niki Hoeky”, which was probably a perfect note to finish on, leaving what could only be described as a delighted audience that will no doubt congregate once again upon her eagerly awaited fourth visit.