Kat Edmonson - St Pancras Old Church, London
I first encountered Texas singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson at Austin's South By South West extravaganza back in 2010. Every year a distinguished music personality delivers a keynote speech at the city's Convention Centre, with 2010 seeing soul legend Smokey Robinson take to the stage. Kat was actually Smokey's "warm up" act, keeping us all entertained with songs from her debut album Take To The Sky while we waited for the great man to appear.
I really appreciated her short set so grabbed her CD from Waterloo Records the following day and made an effort to view SX showcases from the singer at the Elephant Rooms in the two years that followed. I was disappointed that Kat wasn't appearing this year so jumped at the opportunity to attend an intimate London show from the performer at St Pancras Old Church.
Kat was playing a stripped down acoustic performance with her band, in a venue she declared "A really glorious environment". It may have been glorious but she did have to put up with church bells ringing during her opening song 'Hopelessly Blue'. She didn't mind though, letting us know she'd played in noisier establishments, including a recent show in a casino where the machines "chinged" throughout, in the key of "A"!
Her current album Way Down Low contains a mixture of original songs and cover versions, including her take on the Beach Boys classic 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times'. It's an appropriate song to cover as the vocalist harks back to an earlier age, bringing to mind singers like Blossom Dearie and Ella Fitzgerald. Kat's been a fan of old musicals and classic performers since she was a small child, gravitating towards the standards from yesteryear while her friends listened to Prince and Madonna. There may be some truth in what Brian and the boys sang but as Kat told her congregation, she just might have been made exactly for these times, as she now doesn't have to compete with the singers she admired growing up!
I suppose Way Down Low would be filed under "Jazz/Easy Listening" but there's far more to the singer than that. Kat's poppier side was highlighted with what she jokingly deemed the two songs she considered her "hit singles" - the adorable 'Lucky' and her most commercial track, 'I Don't Know', with the more whimsical side of her repertoire displayed during 'Champagne' (written the morning after she had had a little too much fun!) and 'I'm Not In Love'. Kat also tried her hand at the blues and treated her flock to a song that sounded as if it had been lifted from With The Beatles.
One of the most touching tunes on the sophomore release is 'Nobody Knows That'. It's a slow tender track that pulls at the heart strings, fantastic on record and a song that really gets you live. The singer mentioned before her St Pancras rendition that she fell in love with The Beatles when she was young and this was her 'Till There Was You'. Well, the arrangement we got at the London show was a complete contrast to the recorded version as it was a swinging 60s uptempo take that had me grinning from ear to ear and it was certainly the song that made the evening for me.
I'm a fan of the majority of Way Down Low but there's sadly one song I tend to skip: 'Whispering Grass'. UK music fans of a certain age should remember the track as a chart topper back in the 70s, covered by comedy legends Windsor Davies and Don Estelle, performing as their characters from BBC1 sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum. I loathed the song as a child and still don't think of it fondly! That being said, I was actually entranced by Kat's downbeat live rendition as it had a dark and mysterious undercurrent running through, really pulling me in to the number.
I don't think I was the only one in the venue enchanted by such an endearing performer as the audience seemed to revere the whole set and really showed their appreciation between each song. I was very curious as to how those in attendance discovered Kat as her album doesn't appear in the UK till around July. The singer was very appreciative that we showed up anyway, saying she didn't know who or what brought us here but she was so glad that we came to the show. I imagine it will be the last time we get to view the singer in such intimate surroundings, so we should count ourselves very lucky indeed.