The Gemma Lawrence Trio – She’s The Bossa
Under the watchful eye of Winston Churchill the sultry sounds of the Gemma Lawrence Trio trilled through the Staines Conservative Club bar. Gemma Lawrence was giving up her smoky best for a handful of true-blue blue-rinse blue-blood Tory ladies and their senior partners, who gave polite but mild applause. The atmosphere was, in every respect, ‘genteel’.
Gemma is a jazzy blues singer with leanings towards Country. A little bit country and a little bit rock n roll, if you like. In fact, she has recorded a Country album in Nashville with some of Tennessee’s musical royalty – including Gordon Mote. The trio is a guitar based combo, perhaps lacking the heartbeat of percussion at times, but never lacking direction or gusto.
The band includes singer/songwriter and all-round renaissance man Jonny Palmer on one guitar (together with his handy synth) along with Mark Dorsett and his fresh-faced blues-style pickin’ on the other.
But the main focus is on the classy lady Gemma and her slinky voice. Gemma reminded me of Diana Krall, not only in appearance but also in style. Like Diana, Gemma is able to ooze out those husky contralto lows and also the nerve tingling highs. Another piano based singer that came to my mind was Vonda Shepard, perhaps because of the mid-tempo jazzy familiarity of the sounds.
Gemma is very much the ‘band leader’ of the trio, constantly pointing direction and motivating the other musicians, getting things moving if needed or slowing things down when the mood requires. Her voice is strong, dense and smooth as an all-over cocoa butter body rub. Sticky and sweet. It gets right into all those aching places. The Southern U.S. swamplands are dark, mysterious places with hidden depths. And those Southern bars are smoky, sultry and somewhat risky. These are the colours, smells and textures expressed in Gemma’s songs. Deep, deep lows are contrasted against ringing highs and cheerfully sweet melodies.
Gemma’s set started with the somewhat ironic ‘Stealers Wheel’ piece “Stuck in the Middle With You” (possibly more famous these days as a theme from the ‘Reservoir Dogs’.) This song kinda summed up what it was like playing the Staines Con Club on a cool quiet evening in Staines. “It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face…”
The set also included some old favourites like the Hoagy Carmichael ‘Georgia on My Mind’ or ‘Ventura Highway’, ‘Under The Broadwalk’ and even ‘Suspicious Minds’. I particularly liked the upbeat “I Saw Her Standing There” (one of my favourite Beatles numbers) and the Kenny Young / Drifters classic “Under the Boardwalk”.
At times I could have done without the ‘nuts and bolts’ being on show so much. You know the kind of thing, “Another key change now” or “We need more time here” or the fiddling with amps / mike stands etc. In my opinion music, like all craft, should magically conceal the hard work, grease, sweat and effort that goes into making it. The rough edges need to be smoothed out for public consumption. But, maybe I am being too harsh.
Stand out songs for me were the self penned “Always The Same”, a soothing and reliably efficient song (the delivery reminded me of Crystal Gayle,) and the Duffy/Hogarth track “Warwick Avenue”. It is a shame that Gemma didn’t include any Amy Whinehouse in her song-book too but maybe that would have been a step too far for the respectable members of the Con Club!
For funky, jazzy, smooth sounds, the Gemma Lawrence Trio can be thoroughly recommended. Catch them soon at a venue near you or you could see the trio at this years Walton Soundfest.