Son Little's Two Night Stay in LA
Son Little is a goddamn miracle. The neo-soul/blues singer is on a victory lap following the release of his ANTI- Records released album New Magic, which, in itself is far and away one of the best records of the year. He stopped in LA for a two-night stint playing both an intimate house performance for big wig industry types and for a sold out appearance at the Troubadour.
Clad, more often than not, in a signature fisherman's cap, yellow-tinted sunglasses giving an unmistakable Hunter S. Thompson flair, Son Little is a subdued presence at the party. When not fielding clamoring industry types, he stands quietly by himself, unmoved and unbothered, hands behind his back and eyes cast slightly down. When people do approach, as they inevitably do, its with a shy, guarded smile doing its best to seem open and genuine. But his presence, though unassuming, is keenly felt--particularly from the stage. When its his time, following a stellar performance from LA-based The Marias, he mounts the steps and, fixed by suspended christmas lights and the ambient light from the gorgeous modern pool, begins to croon out a great portion of New Magic.
New Magic itself is something of a revelation. Soul Music can sometimes get carried away in its own pomp and circumstance--from the greats like Solomon Burke and Otis Redding came a large dose of gospel into old-school chicago blues, to modern day masters like the recently departed Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, to brand new upstarts like Leon Bridges. With the exception of Bridges, none of those names are exactly known for their subtle deliveries and even Bridges comes steeped in a heavy sheen of purposeful production and packaging that is directly meant to evoke a certain nostalgic sentiment. Son Little does something completely different. Mixing soul and blues with a quiet folk, Son Little has managed to create an understated work of art that, in its restraint, becomes something not only wholly unique, but wholly emotionally fulfilling. Like if Lightnin' Hopkins decided to cover some Johnny Cash Songs solo, but with a voice that is eminently silky and smooth.
On the stage, those largely stripped-back, majority acoustic songs take on a new dimension. With the added support of his backing band, the guitars wail and screech--more Muddy Waters than Robert Johnson--and have a deal more urgency than the softer New Magic record. When he finally starts into "Demon to the Dark" its with a blend of this tortured urgency with the soaring keys just BEGGING to be organs that sends the live rendition of this song into the stratosphere.
It's a short but significant set. With little fanfare he heads off the stage and the night is over. The next night, the set is totally revamped. Suddenly he incorporates a great deal of funk influences into his act. His smile is also wider and more welcoming, shining out from the darkness of the Troubadour under the kaleidoscope of colored lights. He attacks his set with a relish, savoring the audience's responses in a way that he didnt with the smaller crowd of the house the night before. Check out the pics and the video from the night(s).