I've got some of Holly's CDs but I've never seen her live so I was delighted to take the opportunity to see this 'homecoming' gig at The Lexington on Wednesday, a rare UK outing because she's now located across the big deep pond.
The Lexington somehow feels like home to me, and I do hope it escapes the dreadful fate that is inflicting so many of London's music venues (the 12 Bar has just succumbed to the Tory axe) as the city is culturally cleansed of anything that doesn't wear a dark suit and smell of money.
As soon as Holly hit the stage her easy persona radiated over the crowd, who all started smiling as a reflex; they knew that they were going to enjoy this, right from the start.
How to describe her voice? At times it was positively Partonesque and at other times, I thought of Edith Piaf doing boogie-woogie, although there was none of that Piaf wobble: it was more the dedication to the song that came through the singing. Holly is a songster, that old-fashioned idea of the collector and disseminator of songs that should be heard and often aren't. I could hear a lot of blues influences in the music although she's not a hollerer; she sings as though she's speaking to us and we feel like we're her pals, and her love for her material whether covers or not transmits perfectly clearly through this sparkling PA system (hello Serge- you're a great sound engineer!).
In the song 'Your Love is Mine', the audience sang backing vocals, carolling away and encouraged by Holly's smile and the band, who definitely know how to groove. The set list became a prop; it could quite possibly have been a blank sheet of paper. It was picked up and discarded, flapping into the dark and then flapping back up again: 'We've got the words, we've got the pedals, we've got it all going on!', she joked to her guitarist. The most challenging song was 'My Love Is', performed just with voice and double bass. It was absolutely beautiful and brought a tear to my eye.
I had to leave before the end but I left with a lot of thoughts in my head about the young people I teach grappling with the concept of authenticity in music. I've had a whole term of it, and we still explore, quibble, argue, examine, excavate....
As I walked up the road, the word 'genuine' appeared in my head, and that's the best way to describe Holly and her band The Brokeoffs. I hear they are in the studio recording a new album. Great playing from all of them; I was inspired and this morning I woke up and wrote a blues song!