Breanna Barbara is having a rough night.
Her sunburst Stratocaster is on the fritz. There was talk of car trouble. Sound check took longer than it should have. Yet none of these foibles would have been known, had Barbara not mentioned them with a smile mid set. “It must be that Mercury’s in retrograde,” she grinned beneath a ledge of heavy black bangs. The singer-songwriter laughed off the day’s misfortunes before sliding into a lively version of “Where’s My Baby” from her recent LP Mirage Dreams. One of the more jam-heavy songs on the record, “Where’s My Baby” translates particularly well live – especially given the considerable chops of Barbara’s band.
Bassist Stefan Mersch slid about his fretboard with ease, mellowing the flamboyance of his American flag-printed Fender. Evan Heinze played an eerie, howling Hammond B-3 organ – producing a shriek matched only by Barbara’s own hollering vocals. She tends to sing in two distinct styles: a smoky and low breath akin to Hope Sandoval, and a glass shattering wail. It’s the kind of voice that inspires suspicion on a record…the question being: will it hold up live? In Barbara’s case, the answer is yes. Hell yes.
She may be small in frame, but Breanna Barbara is one heck of a blues-belting woman. The wattage of her voice is perhaps best amplified on the gutsy “Nothin’ But Your Lovin’” which she delivered with added potency at Knitting Factory last night – hopping about and striking her guitar in compact bursts of energy – in chunky platforms and a mini skirt, no less.
Barbara and co. are now en route to South By Southwest, where their bourbon-soaked, dirty blues will no doubt charm the locals. But let’s hope they come on back; we need that voice right here in Brooklyn.