21/01/2017 plus Broken Witt Rebels
Before I’d even entered the upstairs room at Academy 2, I’d been told multiple times just how great JST is. Crowd hype dribbled off my shirt as I squeezed my way into her sold-out gig on her exhaustive tour of the UK and Europe. Many a foot stood upon later, I find myself a reasonable position elevated on a metal pole which runs the full length of the bar- I am now at least 6ft 5 and have easy access to alcohol. There is definite buzz in the air before she comes on and the majority of people I talk to are either from Birmingham (her home turf), Newcastle or Scotland, fair to say mainly men, most in their early 50s.
Billed as the finest female blues rock singer and guitarist on her own website, I personally bristle at seeing the word ‘female.’ Is it really necessary? Peter Green! Britain’s finest male blues guitarist…! Yadda yadda, you get the picture. I want to know that someone has reached a given platform based on merit, talent and tenacity – and to be fair JST doesn’t disappoint.
She is here to plug her latest Nashville-recorded album Wild produced by Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Journey, Jimmy Page) which entered Billboard’s blues album charts as the highest ranking debut back in October 2016, pipped at the post by Joe Bonamassa with whom she recently toured.
There is a no-mess, no-fuss approach to the show and you’d be hard pressed not to imagine yourself on a Tennessee front-porch sipping whisky with Granpaw if you closed your eyes. Her vocals are controlled and smooth with hints of gravel which occasionally bursts into angry flames, although it is her playing which takes the performance to stratospheric levels. JST seems so comfortable with her instrument, visibly melting into her solos and commanding her bluesy flock to kneel.
Several grown men surrounding me feel it necessary to tell me how they’d happily marry her, although from the shiny rings on their fingers I guess we have laws against that kind of thing. She really is an incredibly accomplished musician but at times it feels as though her passionate youth is lost in a backdrop of Dad-rock. That sounds so bloody harsh to read back but I came away feeling as though her marketing team are doing her a great disservice – pitching to a demographic in which she runs the risk of losing her true identity.
The gig is a mixture of tracks spanning her five albums, opening with ‘Dyin’ to Know’ and ‘Nothin’ to Lose’ (the absence of the letter ‘G’ may help set the scene). Towards the end of the night she treats us to a rendition of the 1957 film track Wild is the Wind, by way of honouring the late David Bowie.
All in all, a flawless set of no-gimmick country blues rock which does exactly what it says on the tin. It is extremely difficult to imagine that she hails from the Black Country and I can’t imagine she’ll be frequenting there any time soon gathering well-deserved critical acclaim at this rate.