Sunday 9 February 2014


Live Review

Glee Club, Birmingham

Rachel Sermanni

Rachel Sermanni's stunning voice comes straight out of mythology. If the songs of sirens or the music of fairy rings were real they would surely sound as haunting and alluring as hers.

Returning to the Glee in Birmingham there was this time something different about this young, Strathspey singer. Her tone seems more mature and at times has attained a slight smoky quality from somewhere.
Her voice seems to have endless range and a power which belies her sweet looking features and seemingly vulnerable demeanour.
The 22-year-old Scottish songstress opened with Two Birds from her latest EP Everything Changes and which she recorded in New York. It came from the bottom end of her range and gave the song a real depth with it's Bolero-style throbbing beat on the guitar.
Sermanni was accompanied by Jennifer Austin on keyboards who kept very much in the background but made a really big contribution to the sound. Although Sermanni's stream of consciousness on stage seems other worldly her stage presence is so engaging and likeable. Her massive brown eyes sweep over her audience like chocolate search lights and her little dance-like movement of lifting up on her toes as if to emphasise certain lyrics just add to her endearing qualities.
She moved into the strong ballad Breathe Easy, from her Under Mountains album, with her voice rolling up and down and in and out like the sea of which she is singing. Such is the clarity of her voice she often reminds of fellow Scot Annie Lennox.
Her next offering, Bones, from the same album was a real torch song in which she let her voice loose with passion, it has a real dark and brooding undertone and was very reminiscent and just as powerful as Katie Melua. One of her newest songs To Wait To Wit To Woo was a light ballad which, although it had cheeky and almost playful lyrics, was a lovely ballad, it was one of those where Sermanni almost looks on the verge of tears as she sings.
Sermanni then laid down her guitar and moved over to the mandolin for a song Austin and they put together while busking in Amsterdam. Ley Oh was a more bluesy number which even had the holler opening and her voice was wonderfully accented by the gentle picking of the mandolin. She brought her guitar back for The Blackhole which showed off her clever word play and versatility as a singer and musician. It had a strong guitar strum adding the beat and there was something dark about this tune, it has what is almost a gothic feel to it.
From left, Jennifer Austin, Sermanni and Mo Kenney
For her next song Sermanni brought support act Mo Kenney on to join her. She didn't have a great part to play in the song Sleep, but when she did join in her voice blended beautifully with Sermanni's. The soft ballad was again all the better for Sermanni using the bottom end of her vocal range which gave it a deeper mature sound.
With the title track from her new EP and a gorgeous tremble in her voice she managed to recreate the haunting tones more associated with Clannad but perhaps more than any of the songs in the set it really showed what beautiful tones Sermanni can come up with. Towards the end she pulled out The Fog which showed how she can put on a strong, blues-style voice which has a really big sound and feels like it's coming from someone twice her size but then she has the ability to drop into the angelic tones when she slows it down.
To take her out of the set Sermanni played the lovely soft love song, Marshmallow Unicorn, which is massively popular with her growing army of fans. Her voice gave it an emotional charge and it was highlighted with the gentle and clear tones of Austin. 
She ended the set with Waltz which is a fluid ballad which gives her the chance to show off even more of her range. Her next full album will be something to look out for. The EP is available now from her website.

Mo Kenney

Mo Kenney.
Pictures copyright Mike Guest
Certainly worth mentioning is the support act, Canadian Mo Kenney. The androgynous singer has a cut crystal voice and just listening to her gives you the impression there is far more power lying in wait when it comes to banging out a song.
The musician from Nova Scotia opened with her self confessed only happy song of the same name. It was a jaunty tune, from her eponymous album, and a real toe tapper that has an old time honky tonk feel to it.
Eden showed off her sweeter tones through the light ballad which again had that catchiness that just seemed to get under your skin.
Faking It was a much harsher torch-style song with fast-paced lyrics and really slick finger picking which brought memories of Pat Benatar in her hay day. Sucker kept the pace up and the beat and showed another side to the singer's voice with a much fuller sound.
She went out on a real high moving over to the rock side with DJ Vu which had a stonking, stomping beat with shotgun lyrics blasting out with real power.
Kenney may be a support act now but it won't last long, she is just too good.

Photographs courtesy of Mike Guest

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