Bronwynne Brent’s new album Undercover was released on February 28th. Her previous two albums received critical acclaim and led, amongst other live media appearances, to a studio session for Bob Harris on Radio 2. Undercover doesn’t disappoint.
Brent was born in the Mississippi delta, near to where Big Bill Broonzy was born, with parents who played music, sang jazz and wrote country songs. That’s a great range of influences and you can hear them cooking together in this album. Brent wrote eleven of the thirteen tracks on the album.
The opening track ‘I Know It’s Late’ is a great love song capturing the complex realities of that emotion in our hearts as we go in seconds from “I know I’m not what you want I’m what you go, I ain’t for certain that I love you” to being kissed and knowing “I’m gonna marry you and have babies”. These feelings are brilliantly captured and you can also hear on this track why people have reminisced about Amy Winehouse when hearing Brent sing like this. Nor can you help but love her self-effacing nature “I am flattered. Who wouldn’t be? I do think it’s stretching it a bit though. I am not a jazz singer but there’s maybe a little jazz flare in my voice”. You can hear that ‘jazz flare’ elsewhere, perhaps most strikingly on ‘Walking Relapse’, on the cover of ‘Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Baby Leaves You’ and on ‘Lost In The Moonlight’.
Elsewhere, there’s a bluesy, jazzy, country mix on ’Someone That I Loved’ and on the title track, ‘Undercover’. Both of these are eyes-wide-open-love-songs with a catchy melody, a great vocal and almost a late-sixties keyboard. And if the lyrics on those tracks are eyes-wide-open, try ‘You’ve Lost Your Way’ which includes the line “Go on and cut my throat I’ll bleed for you” – you miss it the first time because the melody is smooth but just read that line again and think about it. ‘Big Talker’, similarly, has a cheery tune, but a chorus “I want your pain all over me like rain”.
The final three tracks are quieter. ‘Empty Pot of Gold’ and ‘River Lullaby’ feel like acoustic guitar songs, even though the band kicks in half way through both of them. The album finishes, appropriately enough, with ‘I Walked Away’. This is writing tapping into a different area from most lyrics nowadays.
Have a listen for yourself. There is only one track on YouTube from Undercover, but it’s my favourite off the album. Listen to ‘Raincoat’ below. Occasionally singers can deliver that vocal where the hairs tingle on the back of your neck. The vocal on ‘Raincoat’ does just that, captured on the album with a soft arrangement behind it. On top of that, you just want to join in the chorus. As for the verse, it starts with “I gave you my body/You gave me a raincoat” – and then develops from that opening.
This is an album of distinctive songs from a distinctive voice and writing talent, so much so that I prefer Brent’s songs to the two covers.
Bronwynne Brent is on tour in the UK from March 4th to 22nd.
Artist’s website: https://www.bronwynnebrent.com
‘Raincoat’ – live: