Blues-rock singer-songwriter Rebecca Downes has been making waves in 2016.
She won both “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Emerging Artist” at the British Blues Awards, and released the excellent album Believe early in the year. To bring a successful year to close comes a live album recorded during the tour promoting Believe.
If anything, this live record is an even more powerful statement on intent than Believe. It captures the energy of her electrifying live shows, with a setlist drawing heavily from Believe along with highlights from her début Back to the Start, the EP Real Life and a couple of well-chosen covers.
It’s a fabulously tight performance from her band, playing high energy blues-rock with a touch of funk and soul. Guitarist Steve Birkett delivers some impressive blues licks, and there’s some great piano and organ flourishes from Rick Benton. But none of them steal the spotlight from Rebecca herself, who is on superb form vocally; at times soulful, at times belting out rockier material. The variety of material is a strength here, there are twelve bar blues stompers alongside hard rockers and soulful ballads. And it’s all recorded and mixed with clear but powerful sound; this is no bootleg-quality filler release.
Highlights are many; there’s the funky “Fever in the Night” and “Night Train”, an excellent cover of Erma Franklin’s “Piece of My Heart”, the piano-driven rocker “Back to the Start”, the stripped-down rock’n’roll of “Basement of My Heart” and the guitar-shredding ballad “Sailing on a Pool of Tears”. It ends with a cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends” that owes more than a little to Joe Cocker’s version.
Even though Rebecca Downes only has a limited back catalogue this still has the feel of a greatest hits set. As an introduction to Rebecca Downes’ music, this is as good a place to start as any.