Thursday, 18 February 2016

Mary Spender - support for the Walker/Thompson gig, St George's, Bristol, 17th February, 2016

Brilliant In and From Bristol

Her Vigier guitar in Revolution Green will for the moment serve as a partial metaphor for the elegant as well as sassy talent that is Mary Spender. It is a pretty guitar, yet that is mere show if played with little skill – I imagine my amateurish attempts – but when Mary picks it up at the start of her support slot, the immediate fluidity of her setting-up is impressive as well as tempting. There is a blues run that is suggestive too, and when she sings, this is where the promise is fully realised.

Supporting Ryley Walker with Danny Thompson at last night’s St George’s gig would seem a daunting task – as it so often is with an expectant audience – but Spender instantly performs with confidence and clarity: a voice that is pure and ranging; her guitar playing with such felicity, a slap and picking that has a jazzy characteristic as much as the blues. Her fine songs are often sung in tandem with the guitar work deftly picking out the key melodies, and her vocal tone resonates wonderfully – especially in the fulsome acoustics of the venue. There is a beautiful self-harmonising [I am guessing] vocal work-out on her The Electric EP I picked up with two others last night.

I was generally impressed, and having picked up and listened to those three available cds [two studio eps and one live recording in Philadelphia] as well as all the music on her web site – which includes a sweet video cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit – I feel excited to have heard this emerging talent on that stage.

To anyone reading this review, I would recommend an immediate visit of Spender’s site here to listen to the music available. And it is all in the listening, and I can confirm that she excels both live and in recording [if you can make her The Louisiana gig in hometown Bristol on the 31st March, she will be playing with a band and that will be interesting, but the soloing is damn fine enough].

I don’t think I quite accounted for the ‘sass’ I wanted from my opening metaphor. This is for me always a positive quality, and I take from it the essence of being confident. I liked her confidence in making it clear to the audience last night that she has taken her journey: she has travelled, played in America, recorded in Nashville, and this has taken some years. She is now ready and releasing her debut album in October of this year, and I look forward to that. I look forward to seeing her play again and sharing this discovery with a wider audience.

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