Nell Bryden What Does It Take Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A woman who not only packs a vocal punch, but knows how to write a killer tune as well.

Chris Jones 2009

Brooklynite Nell Bryden deals in the kind of easy-going Americana that doesn't bludgeon with histrionic emoting but entices by the subtle use of great songs and stories. This album - itself a re-packaging of her earlier work along with several new tracks - sees her re-launched for a UK audience that's finally beginning to value a woman who not only packs a vocal punch, but knows how to write a killer tune as well.

You could easily imagine that this type of honest, well-played fare would go down well with fans of, say, Squeeze or Nick Lowe: other pristine acts with a love of country and a cleverness that always precluded mass consumption. It's sad to say; but where Bryden's probably going to fall into a trap is by her very diversity. What Does It Take contains everything from country soul to jazz making the odd detour for a rockabilly bounce, a bluegrass break or a folky lament. All of which is by way of saying that this is as far from another retro-styled piece of fluff for those too young or lazy to remember the originals as you can get. All styles here serve the song first and foremost.

And what they songs they are: the boom-chicka Johnny Cash country of Where The Pavement Ends and its tale of seedy seduction. The rolling blues of Not Like Loving You; the sad country testimonial of Helen's Requiem. And for light relief there's always Late Night's tea dance jazz (one imagines Nell wearing a fringed dress and feather bedecked headband) or Tonight's barrelhouse, speakeasy fun, complete with tack piano and a sultry performance over the trad clarinets.

It's all delivered with a voice that has the power and grit to equal Joss Stone, but without the preposterous showboating. Let's just hope this latest assault on these shores by Bryden yields results.

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