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.
Mark Flanagan 28/9/19 published in Blues In Britain November '19 issue written by Jonathan Brook.
To a few people the name Mark Flanagan might not be recognized ...but his face may by. As for the past 31 years he has been (and continues to be) the guitarist in Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Band.
The amount of "A" list musicians that he has played with is staggering.... BB King Clapton and Gilmour to name but three. When he isn't backing Mr Holland, he is fronting his own 3-piece band or performing solo.
Tonight, was a solo affair, with 2 guitars and Banjo sharing the stage with him ... and an audience hanging on to his every word. The majority of the night’s setlist comprised of tunes from his latest release "Chosen Few" and Down the Wire with fellow Musician Jimmy Bergin. We had stories and songs about Brixton, songs about playing Dominoes with Elvis (written by Jimmy Bergin) and tales reminiscing about his childhood growing up in Liverpool. In between each song this quietly spoken artist shared humorous stories and anecdotes about learning to play guitar in Liverpool at the age of 12 and ending up in Liverpool in 1988 where a neighbour happened to be Jools Holland... and the rest is history ...
"Rico was a song playing tribute to trombonist Rico Rodriguez and Ali From Mali" a respectful nod to multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure . Mark is a virtuoso on both conventional and slide guitar, the final tracks were both slide numbers and the shimmering notes were a joy to behold. Although we were there for the superb music, I for one could of been quite content with listening to Mark's wonderful stories of spending time with George Harrison and playing on his last solo album. Another wonderful night was had by all at Crawley Blues Club.