One on my favourite discoveries of last year were the band Tom McKean & the Emperors. Managed to catch them 4 or 5 times in 2008, and last night provided the first opportunity to catch them in 2009 - fresh from recording thier debut album in Texas. I was a little disappointed that they were not going to be out on their own, but would instead be supporting Nell Bryden , but figued I'd go along anyway.
It was great to have the band back and once again they delivered at great set, including - what are now firm fan favourites: 'This is the Year'; 'A Little Something'; and the Jolie Holland Classic 'Old Fashioned Morphine', in addition to some newer songs, that were either getting their first outing or their first outling in a while. I'm looking forward to the album coming out. Should be a good one.
Now, Di and I had gone along to this just to see Tom and the Boys, and only I had even bothered to check out Nell Bryden's work. I had listened to a few track on her Myspace site, and felt quite indifferent to them if I am honest. As a result it was more surprising to witness just what a tour-de-force Bryden and her band are live - I was completely and utterly blown away by her set - I am already confident that this is a performance good enough to at least make my top 10 at the end of this year.
Musically Bryden encompaces (in the words of her own website) a 'graceful blend of blues, country / modern Dixie and jazz ... drawing influences from Ryan Adams and Bob Dylan through to soul divas such as Nina Simone and Bonnie Raitt.' This is true, and then some. She has an old style female country star swagger, a cracking voice and a rocking band. This all brings songs such as 'Late night call', 'Tonight' and the wonderful 'Goodbye' come to life. I spent and hour smiling and enjoying.
As a side note, Nell was kind enough to stop to say hello after the gig, where I shared my 'not that impressed to converted fan' road to damascus moment. I can report that she seemed like a lovely and friendly person too - she seemed keen to hook up with Tom and Co again if their paths crossed. I will certainly be making an effort to catch her live again.