Re­fresh­ing dose of orig­i­nal­ity by Le Bon

The Scotsman - - Reviews - Cate le Bon

A solo pi­ano show by in­nately odd­ball singer/song­writer Cate Le Bon might not be top of most folks’ back-to-work­blues-ban­ish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties but there are few of her peers who could of­fer such a re­fresh­ing dose of orig­i­nal­ity to usher in the new year as this won­drous Welsh chanteuse.

Le Bon (no re­la­tion to Si­mon, in blood nor artistry) is more usu­ally seen fronting an elec­tric band of fel­low trav­ellers but on this low(er)-key out­ing had opted to de­but a batch of un­known songs from an al­bum to be re­leased later in the spring, which was writ­ten on pi­ano when she was liv­ing a soli­tary ex­is­tence in the Lake Dis­trict.

With her cus­tom­ary dead­pan charm, she claimed her cir­cum­stances in­fused the ma­te­rial with “an edge of lu­nacy”.

If so, it was an exquisitely mar­shalled lu­nacy de­liv­ered with vo­cal pu­rity and droll in­trigue over del­i­cate but dy­namic chords, punc­tu­ated with the oc­ca­sional word­less whoop.

Ex­posed with­out her band, she ad­mit­ted, “I get so ner­vous, it’s like free drugs”. Yet the nerves did not show.

There was an as­sur­ance even in the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the songs. And be­sides, she was not ac­tu­ally alone, hav­ing per­suaded her fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor and right hand man, Stephen Black, aka Sweet Ba­boo, along for the ride to ac­com­pany her on a va­ri­ety of wood­wind.

Black’s con­tri­bu­tion was sub­tle but key, adding colour, per­son­al­ity and play­ful­ness across the tonal spec­trum, from cheeky bassy skronk to a melan­cholic keen­ing tenor, en­hanc­ing I Just Wanna Be Good with spar­ing clar­inet and fir­ing a curt vol­ley of squawk­ing sax over What’s Not Mine, a warmly re­ceived favourite from Le Bon’s most re­cent al­bum Crab Day. The haunt­ing I Think I Knew, orig­i­nally a vo­cal duet with Per­fume Ge­nius, be­came a duet with oboe.

As well as scat­ter­ing her set with more fa­mil­iar ma­te­rial of her own, she rounded off with a cou­ple of ju­di­ciously cho­sen cov­ers.

Her faith­ful ren­di­tion of Paul Mc­cart­ney’s Wa­ter­falls was the per­fect part- ner to her new songs, slot­ting im­mac­u­lately into the over­all off­beat tone.

But Le Bon had even more

fun with a swing­ing en­core, dur­ing which she ceded bluesy pi­ano du­ties to Rob Jones in order to get down to her earthy ver­sion of lo-fi cult hero R. Ste­vie Moore’s Don’t Let Me Go To The Dogs.

FIONA SHEP­HERD

0 Welsh singer/song­writer Cate Le Bon: vo­cal pu­rity and droll in­trigue over del­i­cate but dy­namic chords

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