Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1094

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Myles Sanko, Crowd Company and Hollie Stephenson: Brooklyn Bowl 2/04/2016

Miles3 Crowd1 Hollie1 Crowd2 Crowd3

The Brooklyn Bowl seems to be firmly established now as a major venue, having already hosted the likes of Sheila E, Maceo Parker and alike - tonight business was bristling, as the clatter of ten pin bowling could be heard over the intimate piano-led opening act Hollie Stephenson, who spilled out her emotions from her young heart (she's only 18) over the vast space in front of her.

Definitely from the Amy school of self-confessional songs. Ms. Stephenson attempted to warm up the funk & soul crowd with a short stripped down set that included the 50's inspired doo-wop type loveliness "Lover's Game" (which as we all know, is a losing one) dispatched with a maturity that defies her tender years.

"My Own Tears", another little gem was really just missing her trusty strumming guitar (use it! It's part of your sound. Winehouse had it round her neck permanently when she started) and perhaps doing Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" is a tad ambitious, but hats off for being so fearless. Apparently, Dave Stewart is behind her, which could be a good thing (Eurythmics) or a bad thing (SuperHeavy, a star-studded super flop extolling pointlessness) Time will tell, she's at least paying her dues the right way and that's the best course of action if you want to be the next 'miracle worker'.

Crowd Company were on form tonight too. Rob Fleming has assembled some mighty fine homegrown musicians...a fiery horn section and notably, keys man Claudio Corona, whose concise rhodes cut through the mix majestically. Plenty of female action on the vocals too, namely Emma Divine with a smashing version of "Turn This Thing Around" - a cover by The New Mastersounds. Esther Dee also stepped up to the plate with the chunky, riff laden (Minnie Ripperton's) "Adventures In Paradise" and despite the sound guy going AWOL at the critical moment (i.e the opening trademark high note) and a torrent of feedback, Ms. Dee acquitted herself admirably through the pitfalls and mishaps that can happen in a live performance. And, let's not forget Joanne Marshall, who belted out a heartfelt rendition of that female funk classic (Anne Sexton's) "I'm Losing You". Crowd Company were good company tonight...

Next up, the man they call "The Lovechild Of Soul", the inimitable and extremely dapper, Miles Sanko. Who wasted no time, getting his groove on with uptempo openers "High On You" and the Isley-ish "Shooting Star". It's music that transports you back-in-time, with its inherent soulfulness and emotion. R&B performed by a man of the times. Edwyn Collins' classic "Girl Like You" gets the silky soul treatment, as a restrained band wait for the big vocal hook (that comes in much later in the song) with a crash / groove. Myles understands holding back, keeping his drummer on a tight sparse leash and is a subtle master of dynamics (a trick that the band on before could learn from). No sir, he doesn't give it away for free! Ebb and flow, way to go!

The Bobby Womack inspired wonderness of "Save My Soul" sees the band 'come on home' to roost, as they ramp it up an extra gear with this driving ditty. The result is a taut and intense experience on the cusp of going out of control as Miles goes all 'churchy', bashing his tambourine, while taking us high-on-up, letting the melody and groove float on out into the soul ether. The man is in his stride and so too are his cohesive band.

Marvin Gaye gets a name check too, as the date happens to fall on his birthday. A faster, but never-the-less stonking two-hander, "Mercy Mercy Me" segueing into "What's Going On", replete with its searching narrative thrust. Sanko has great timbre in his voice - touches of Lou Rawls and Lionel Ritchie, it's certainly lovely listening, that's for sure! This is a highly measured set covering sixteen songs or so. It does, however, get a little repetitive sometimes, as the minor chord sequences mount-up a lot. But the propulsive churn remains upbeat and no one can argue with this guy's pathos. Portrait of a Soulman in splendid colour, creating his own unique path through this passionate and emotive music. He eloquently called and we all responded resoundingly! A top night at The O2.

Words Emrys Baird

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