Having written up my review of the Bevvy Sisters album, Plan B and really enjoyed it, I was particularly disappointed to discover that I would miss their debut trip to London, for a launch gig at The Harrison near Kings Cross. A trip away couldn’t be avoided for me and Heather of the Bevvys explained that they were going out on a limb for this show. It was regarded as a worthwhile investment into a new territory, with the possible knock on of attracting some media attention too, but was a bit of a one off for now.
As we chatted through the economics of being in a working band and how important it was to keep the pioneering spirit of seeking new frontiers a thought took hold. With reasonable recording being available on so many hand-held devices, plugged into a mixing desk I wondered if they might be recording the gig. Indeed they were, so I asked for a copy of the results. It seemed a worthwhile experiment to see if the results merited review. The answer in this case was affirmative.
I guess the room in The Harrison is small enough and the gig intimate enough for the little details to survive in sufficient fidelity to give a good account of what happened. The Bevvy Sister are after all just three gals and a guy, four voices, an acoustic guitar and a banjo, but when they get going they make a mighty fine noise and it’s actually been very well captured. The sweet vocal harmonies and timbre of the acoustic instruments is very real and closing my eyes I am all but present.
All of the introductory preamble also makes it clear that the room is jam full and the crowd is also up close and personal, so they too are captured with a realistic sense of the interaction and enjoyment. It sounds like a very warm night, in all senses of the word. Every twist and turn of the two sets is greeted with enthusiasm and the required audience participation on a couple of songs is taken up with gusto.
Naturally enough much of the material covered is taken from the album, but with a much simpler instrumental mix. It works largely because of the vocal power of Heather, Gina and Cera (pronounced Sarah), who all have a chance to lead, but also meld together with that combination of sass and class that is somehow edgy, thrilling and as sweet and sublime as a Michelin starred desert course. It should be said that David Donnelly also adds nicely to the vocal mix filling out the lower registers where required, which works really well in this stripped down format.
The first set contains too of the strongest album cuts in the trad arrangement of Sylvie, which sound straight out of the Kentucky Mountains and Junkyard Band, a Bevvy Sisters original. It’s actually one of David’s suggesting there is much more to come from him and the band, especially if you take Cera’s own Row My Boat. The latter is a salacious little number and while Cera tries to pass it off as “Nautically themed,” it’s David who cleverly adds, “You might call it naughty-sexical.” But there are a couple of surprises in the mix to finish the first half with Your Cheatin Heart and It Ain’t What You Do, which serve to further underline the Bevvy Sisters’ natural range.
The banter is sharp, although I suspect some of the asides and tall tales will have gone over the heads of the assembled. There’s a nice story about Sandy Wright and his Little Bird makes the first set and Six Degrees the second. He’s a fabulous songwriter and nowhere near as famous in England as his talent suggests he should be, although he is a legend amongst a certain crop of the smarter end of the current Scottish music scene. Gina who is clearly the closest to Sandy and David both do their bit to try and spread his wit and wisdom, although the songs really speak for themselves and might hopefully encourage a wider exploration of his oeuvre.
The second set also has a wonderful murder ballad called the Willow Garden and a stunning arrangement of Everybody Loves My Baby that cements the influence of the Boswell Sisters, who were cut from a slightly different cloth to the Andrews Sisters or the Beverly Sisters. They were coincidentally a recent discovery for me prior to this CD arriving. There is some decent YouTube footage, which is well worth a few minutes, but the Bevvy Sisters show they can match the slippery, heavily syncopated, vocal gymnastics with the same grin inducing speed and agility.
Two more of Cera songs, Whisky and Higher Place also make the second set and if she and David can continue along the lines they have started with Plan B, then plan C, or whatever else follows on will prove very interesting indeed.
The two sets are great to listen too, so much so that I’ve added them to my iPod, but – and there is a but – what’s missing is the chance to look around the room to see what I imagine to be a sea of beaming faces looking back, to really join in the moment, the sweat and the camaraderie of common experience and shared smiles. I doubt that I’ll repeat this experiment for that very reason and it also underlines the fact that I’m gutted to miss them and hope that someone has the ears and wisdom to get them back down here soon, as one things for certain on the evidence of this recording, four Bevvys makes for an extremely good night out.
Review by: Simon Holland
Plan B is out now
Order via: Amazon
Photo Credit: Sean Purser