Kyla Brox duo @ the Hawth Crawley W Sussex, 14/02/20
submitted to Blues in Britain Feb 2020, with picture from Brian O'Connor
What a way to celebrate your birthday following the 22nd anniversary of Crawley blues with a debut for Kyla Brox and her husband Danny Blomeley. This gig was a long one in the making and worth the wait as I had seen Kyla in her early teens with her dad Victor and more recently with her band at Scarborough. The evening kicked off with a slow blues ‘When we are alone’, which immediately showcased Kyla’s soulful voice and Danny’s sultry picking. ‘Change your mind’ has an old world quality about it and could have been sung by any of the greats and it had the added benefit of Kyla on flute as she hit notes in the upper register that did not seem feasible. ‘In the morning’ along with ‘Bluesman’s child’ are autobiographical in nature, charting a life on the road with its peaks and troughs, also illustrating the combined writing skills of Kyla & Danny from their latest album “Power & Glory” ,which is already being nominated for numerous blues awards. Do yourself a favour and get a copy on CD or better still vinyl. The first set concluded with the Etta James classic ‘I’d rather go blind’ and there was an audible sigh of pleasure from the audience. This is a song to be felt as well as sung and Kyla had all the subtle nuances of the original combined with Beyonce’s version in “Cadillac Records”. In my humble opinion it is the best cover I have heard as she lives the song and Danny’s accompaniment was sensitively delivered. The reaction of the crowd was a standing ovation, unheard of in a first set, but thoroughly deserved.
Talking to Kyla prior to the gig and in the interval, we spoke of influences Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Jo Ann Kelly and more recently Susan Tedeschi. We were looking at a DVD of the European Blues tours in the late 60’s one featuring Sugar Pie DeSanto and Sister Rosetta Tharp. Kyla met DeSanto, who she said was larger than life and revelation.
They started back in on the title track of “Pain and glory”, which could act as a journal for the last 2 years of their careers. Having won the UK Blues challenge in ’18, European Blues challenge ’19 and getting to the semis in Memphis. Now they are being nominated for the UK awards for best artist and album, they certainly get my vote. One of her favourites is Nina Simone as an interpreter of the blues and she chose ‘Do I move you’ as an illustration, starting with a haunting flute intro. Her version was slower than the original and the better for it as the enunciation of every syllable was heartfelt. On the line “the answer ought to be yes…” Danny’s response spoke for everyone in the audience. A flute coda just added to the emotion of the track. The gig date coincided with my birthday and as Kyla said she would not normally play two Etta James tracks, however I was eternally grateful to hear ‘At last’. This is another iconic track which showcased the full vocal range that Kyla has, absolutely mesmerising. To my mind there is not a better vocalist around on the circuit now. Having a Sunday off in Memphis the band went to the local church with the pastor being the Rev. Al Green and Kyla gave a soulful rendition of ‘Let’s stay together’. Once more we were treated to the extent of her repertoire and fortunate to hear a classic rarely sung in blues clubs, we were the beneficiaries. Her conclusion of the number took her vocals to new heights with circular breathing that ascended and filled the studio with melody. Going back to her roots ‘Don’t mess with my man’ written by Dorothy Labosterie and covered by the likes of Irma Thomas in the late ‘50’s sounded like a song that Bessie Smith would have delivered. This was one of those gigs that ended too soon, however it meant that we would get an encore, what better than ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen. There are many versions online, however, to experience Kyla singing live and feeling the full emotion of the concert coming to a crescendo. The song soars and filled the studio and at the end there was reverential silence followed by an audible gasp, spontaneous applause and a standing ovation.
Some gigs transcend your expectations and live in the mind forever, truly stunning.
Jim Crawford 25/3/18
Supported by Danny Kyle
Crawley Blues Club
It’s good to see people play who you have never heard of before, especially if they come highly recommended by people you trust, and Jim Crawford was one such person.
Jim was supported by Danny Kyle, an affable young man who, aided by his new Gretch parlour guitar gave us about 30 minutes of excellent roots blues.
Fingerpicking his way through ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’, past Scott Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer’ and into a slow version of ‘Come On In My Kitchen’ with some lovely delicate slide work.
Danny is well thought of at the club and there are plans for him to return for a full set as soon as dates can be confirmed.
What can I say about Jim Crawford? Originally from Lancashire and now living in Appledore, he initially comes across as a bit on the ‘slow and careful’ side but has a wicked sense of humour and a whole raft of anecdotes to choose from whilst tuning his guitars.
His introduction to ‘Trouble in Mind’ was ‘some old blues to make you really fed up’, but it did the exact opposite.
Elizabeth Cotton is one of his favourite early female blues artists and his version of ‘Shake Sugaree’ certainly did her justice with some community singing during the chorus.
Jim fingerpicked his Ukulele to excellent effect for the fast ‘Stagger Lee’ which highlighted just how talented he is before moving on to some self-penned numbers, ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ and ‘When The Rains Came’ which was recorded by Beth Rowley and much to his surprise, used on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.
Danny joined Jim on stage along with Fred Ball, another of the club’s founders, for John Lee Hooker’s ‘Crawlin King Snake’. It was the first time I’d heard Fred play the harp and a great job he did of it as well.
Jim ended the evening with a bit of telephone gospel ‘Jesus On the Mainline’ to liven things up before we all went home.
Yet another great artist with a strong connection to Crawley Blues Club, giving the audience an excellent night’s entertainment.