Imagine the best vocal elements of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Nicks and Alison Krauss all manifested in one phenomenal folk-tinged, soulful country-blues-meets-gospel voice; Phantom Limb's Yolanda Quartey, a voice in a million and a true shining talent of this release, is that exact manifestation. On this live, hometown recording showcasing material from their self-titled debut album, Bristol based country-soul collective Phantom Limb evidence their astute musicality and songwriting ability with sensitive instrumental accompaniments perfectly complimenting Quartey's outstanding vocals.
Opening track 'Run' begins with smooth, soulful vocals over a gentle bed of picked acoustic guitar and delicate piano before the addition of appropriately subtle drums and bass. The music, especially Quartey's vocals, is incredibly easy on the ear with bluesy piano flourishes dusting across its surface throughout. Eventually it kicks into a heavier, pushy song with more intent in the combined pair of drums and bass and intermittent waves of dialogue between the piano and electric guitar. Applying much the same refined recipe, 'Tumbling Down' has a beautifully moving, steady blues feeling which gradually gathers determination and drive throughout, getting louder and well-worked firstly with a bluesy electric guitar solo and then leading into a soulful Hammond organ solo really pushing forward to the final chorus.
In 'Tumbling Down', as in all of this recording's contents, Quartey showcases the range and flexibility of her voice moving seemingly effortlessly between rich lower notes and soaring higher ones and continues to do so throughout the performance. In the gospel-tinged 'I'll Have Mercy' and the haunting Hank Williams cover 'Angel Of Death' she starts with a delicate tone and luscious well-controlled vibrato before unleashing her powerful, belting Aretha Franklin quality. Amongst a near perfect performance, Quartey can be forgiven slight mistuning in the wispy head voice sounded in 'Waiting Around To Fall'.
Highlights and moments of goose bump-inducing beauty are unsurprisingly plentiful among this consistently high-quality live recording which, owing to the calibre of the musicianship, is as near perfect and refined as a labour intensively produced studio album. From the delicacy in higher octave piano flourishes and the tentative upright bass subtlety, through well-arranged crescendos and heartbeat-like thudding bass drums to the soaring elegance of string quartet backings, the Phantom Limb sound is well refined and accessible to many.
There is no doubt that Live In Bristol is a superb and captivating live recording evidencing top-notch song writing and performance from a truly cohesive and talented musical collective, Phantom Limb; very impressive.