Review/Preview: Natalie William’s Soul Family

Natalie William’s Soul Family. 06 November. Ronnie Scotts. Review by Fran Hardcastle.

Natalie William’s Soul Family, the monthly residency that has been running for more than 5 years has developed a loyal following. Unsurprisingly. The atmosphere on stage infects the room with an exuberant energy and William’s conciliatory manner results in a buzzing, vocally appreciative audience. Last month I arrived at the venue in a bleak mood and within minutes of the show starting, felt rejuvenated.

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The most exciting element of the show is Williams’ knack for introducing new artists that you’re grateful to discover and the prowess to pull big names to guest. Previous guests have included Alice Russell, Roachford, Jamie Cullum, Jarie Bernhoft and ESKA to name a few. November was no exception. Ethereal Danish discovery Marie Dalstrœm is a songwriter to look out for.

On the other end of the spectrum, Krystle Warren was hypnotic. Despite appearances on Jools Holland’s show, she is still criminally unknown in the UK. I first discovered her on French pianist, Eric Legnini’s album, The Vox. Live, her characterful delivery draws attention to a raw distinctive voice that offers an emotional hurricane of depth.

Williams’ also uses the show as a showcase for her own original brand of soul pop. From the hip swinging grooves of My Oh My, to the Jill Scott-esque Butterfly, in which Williams showed off her incredible range, floating up to whistle register. For jazz fans, her new material with Tom Cawley is something to keep an eye out for. New song, Little Girl, dedicated to Cawley’s daughter is classic songwriting bringing to mind Stevie & Paul Simon. An album is in the offing I hear.

The regular house band are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Guitarist Ben Jones is a hidden gem well worthy of discovery by wider audiences. Solos offer an edge-of-the-seat rollercoaster ride. Bassist Robin Mularkey’s precision timing & propelling melodic phrasing underpin the group and balance well with drummer Martyn Kaine’s often witty delivery. Backing vocalists are drawn from the cream of the session scene. The force of personality that is Vula is currently the voice of DHL and is an impressive powerhouse of a sound. Brendan Reilly, also one quarter of BLINQ with Williams has a falsetto of liquid chocolate. November’s guest BV, Annabel Williams’(no relation) commanding delivery of Jill Scott’s Golden was a treat.

In an X Factor age, it is refreshing to see such an organic, inviting platform to discover new songwriting talent.

Soul Family perform the Motown Christmas Revue at Ronnie Scotts, Monday 5th to Saturday 10th December.

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