Look out Lucinda. The heir to blistering Americana is honing her craft and unleashing some heat on LA’s pulsing musical fringe, known otherwise as its de facto center. New Zealand-born, Los Angeles-based Jackie Bristow sculpts out some distinctive terrain with the formative blade of her exemplary band and the clement heart of her winsome songcraft.
Bristow on record is rather in the tradition of the lovestruck or lonely, a sultry, mid-tempo sound that has as its subject a woman vulnerable yet invincibly strong, a woman to worship were it not for ill-fatings or a misalignment in the stars. Unsurprisingly on stage her presence is one of tenderness and backcountry charm, her voice both sweetly raw and refreshingly unrefined.
Her band, however, at least the one in current support, is an urban fur that wraps her and warms her to those more in want of a good sonic mauling. They, this connective quartet, are muscular and fierce and sculpt out a body of sound rooted deeply in country, blues, rock and roll, and perhaps something more distinctively Los Angeles, that of great session players coming together for an evening on stage or, that rarer wed, a lasting incarnation that not only translates but transforms one artist’s vision into a leaner, dare I say meaner, more enduring sound.
Of that band, the standout player is veteran guitarist and Australian legend Mark Punch. His steel slide has said teeth, sharp and slicing, while the command of his frets has him akin to Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mick Taylor, to name but a trio of greats. Punch offers up secondary pleasures in the chord-accompanying contortions of his face, as if it the template for some sonic art piece that, when charged, shapens wholly awry. What a joy this otherwise hushed figure is to listen to and watch, with a voice on backup that softens the room, sweetens it, while luring us all the while into solos all-too-fair, sirens, they are, singing us to the rocks, to some terrible crash borne of the most pleasurable drift. Bristow in response sings us straight back, and the band work their ropes to keep us intimately in.
Holding things tight are Scott Doherty on piano, Alison Wunderland on lilting bass, and drummer Nick Gaffaney, another contortionist, though he of an ever-morphing kit which seems before our eyes to seamlessly change, finding itself either upright or entirely on the floor with the drummer himself bent and beating his skins as if some ecstatic gone madly off.
Doherty’s keys are instinctively right, ranging as they do from Western saloon to New Orleans swing to Jerry Lee, PJ Harvey, or the sublime fingerings of Mcoy Tyner. He is among LA’s best, a commanding soloist and revered player about town, he brings to this band an energy that, in venues too small for a piano, otherwise dims, though only by degrees.
Bristow, no matter, holds the balance right with her own fluid stride and a bounce on stage that keep things kicking and bright. She is a formidable leader live and at her roadhouse best a mere glass-throw off, arm’s reach from the hip-thrusting, head-swinging crush. Her latest release is Shot of Gold.