Friday, 24 May 2013

Chrysta Bell

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
4 stars
Film-maker David Lynch may not have the same high profile he once did, but he sure recognises a muse when he sees and hears one. Cue Chrysta Bell, the Texan chanteuse with whom he wrote and produced the 2011 This Train album. Lynch isn't in attendance for Bell's debut Scottish performance in a venue which probably most closely resembles a Lynchian fantasy night-club this side of the pond, but he is on film. His typically opaque introduction refers to Bell as a song-bird, but in truth, as she and her three-piece bar-band open with the thrusting bump and grind of Real Love, she's much more than that.

Jet-black apparelled, flame-haired and impossibly cheek-boned, Ms Bell presents a magnificently studied burlesque-style persona. It's her voice that matters, though, in a set of songs full of light and shade, but which in a live context transcend any notions of mere mood music. There's a dramatic and emotive stridency behind her singing, which leans towards an east European sensibility. As well as selections from Lynch's soundtracks, there are covers of Be-Bop-A-Lula and Baby, Please Don't Go, with Bell occasionally strapping on a big white guitar to complete her perfect ensemble.

One or two fawning references to Lynch too many makes one wonder exactly who's in control, especially when she announces a song which he apparently wouldn't allow to be on the album. Then, as she cuts loose on an old number from her Texas days, something wonderful happens. As the mask slips, we get a hint of who Chrysta Bell actually is beyond the dressing-up box, and it's an equally beguiling experience.

The Herald, May 24th 2013


ends

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