The Bevvy Sisters | * * * * Scotsman | Glasgow Jazz Festival 2017
It’s not often that you go to a gig and are captivated right from the opening notes – but that’s what happened on Saturday night when The Bevvy Sisters – Gina Rae, Heather Macleod and Louise Murphy – took to the stage in the Drygate (surely the most appropriately named venue they have ever played?) in Glasgow’s East End.
This vocal trio’s opener, a work song entitled Bring Me a Little Water Sylvie, immediately introduced their gorgeous close harmonies and velvety voices. It was impossible to resist, especially with Macleod’s bluesy and unaffected style as featured singer.
That song set an impossibly high bar for the rest of the concert, which featured a genre-spanning selection of music and each of the three Bevvies – plus their impressive guitarist, David Donnelly – taking turns singing the lead. The follow-up number, See-Line Woman, might not have been as mesmerising but it got the party atmosphere going a bit, especially when permission for participation was granted – “Go on, bash the tables – it’s a Saturday night in Glasgow!”
The Drygate – which feels like a cosier, less barn-like version of the Fruitmarket and is similar in size and lay-out to Oran Mor – was perfect for a group this size.
Other stand-outs included Alicia Keys’s Some People which was a bit of a tour-de-force for the dazzlingly lovely voice of Louise Murphy (aka Baby Bevvy?) and Love Me Like a River, a sultry ballad by Melody Gardot, whose music seems particularly well suited to this group.
The Bevvy Sisters | Rating: **** | Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 2016
Taking a break midway through their energetic but measured two-hour set, our three hosts instructed us to “get back on the wagon”, by which they meant visiting the bar would be a good idea.
They are the Bevvy Sisters, after all, although you didn’t need to be well-oiled to enjoy their skilful and exuberant performance.
Playing the latest in a series of profile-raising shows in the Traverse Theatre’s café bar, this was also the Edinburgh-founded Bevvy Sisters’ Christmas party, and their sell-out audience certainly entered into the spirit of things. The lead vocal trio of Heather Macleod, Gina Rae and Cera Impala played jazz and soul standards throughout, but they weren’t afraid to mess around a little.
The expansive show took in a cheerful Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens and a breezily upbeat version of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, their jazz styles balanced by a hint of traditional country – as in Tennessee Waltz, classily elegant and well received on the dancefloor. Their voices locked together stylishly, and in harmony with bandleader David Donnelly’s backing on Loveboat Bad Boys. At the less traditional end of the scale, Stevie Wonder’s Have a Talk With God became a dreamy, flute-led funk, Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams was redesigned into something slow and smoky, and Aretha Franklin’s Rock Steady and Donna Summer’s I Feel Love provided a lively conclusion.
BBC 'Best of the Fest' | Edinburgh Fringe 2014
The Bevvy Sisters | * * * * * Broadway Baby | Edinburgh Fringe
Scotland-based four-piece group The Bevvy Sisters (not all sisters, or even all women) enthrall and amaze as they bring us their unique stamp on Americana classics and their own songs. The three ladies open slow and atmospherically with a cover of “Sylvie”, in a cappella that allows them to show off their impressive voices and fine vocal arrangements, backed up by David Donnelly's impressively low and deep, resounding voice. It's captivating to watch such a sound erupt.
They glide through their own songs and covers of blues, jazz, soul and country with sparkling accuracy and affection, soul and fun. The covers they perform are reworked with originality and passion as if the songs were their own. Donnelly on guitar elevates the performance by adding a layer of technical intricacy, with nimble finger picking, although its not necessary since their voices work well on their own. In their version of See-Line Woman, he uses the guitar to drum out a primal rhythm. Cera Impala adds to the bluesy feel on banjo, and also takes a turn on the guitar.
The expertly controlled voices complement each other gorgeously; from Heather Macleod's smooth honey tones, to Gina Rae's jazzy easiness, and Impala's higher, dreamier voice. As well as being technically glorious, the voices carry diverse lyrics delightfully from the dark to the bizarre, from the sombre and lonely Whisky, to the murder ballad Willow Garden and the saucy Row My Boat.
Their name appropriately draws to mind connotations of The Beverley Sisters or The Andrews Sisters, whose vocal skills and sass they share. But there is something more interesting going on here, musically and lyrically. There’s a wider range of influences, with lyrics that are darker and more substantial.
The band’s dynamics work perfectly together and they clearly enjoy themselves on stage. There’s plenty of mischievous banter and at one point they use their tuning time to erupt into a Scottish drinking song, not wasting a moment. When they insist that all of the audience click and clap along, it sounds less like a threat and more like a good-natured invitation that no one chooses to decline, which can be unusual at the fringe.
Apparently not enough people in Edinburgh know about The Bevvy Sisters, although this should change. Nonetheless, they do not put up a diminutive performance and instead take control of the space with soul and authenticity. Those in the audience know they’ve seen something special.
FRoots | John Atkins
First reaction. What is this? The opening cut Ain’t No Grave just hit me right between the eyes. A guitar sound to die for and three-part harmony with an edge and delivery that fits the song perfectly. No matter how many versions of the song have gone before this one really raises the grave. Such a stunning opening sets you up, either to enjoy the rest of the album, or to head for disappointment if such a dynamic start is not maintained.
Worry not, since this is not a false come-on. Original songs, more fine arrangements of traditional songs and a couple by a fine Scottish writer Sandy Wright. Wright’s two songs are finely crafted and well performed offering one of the Bevvies the opportunity to sing solo to show their parts are as good as the whole. Their own songs, including Whisky and Junkyard Blues are also good but I have to say it is their reworking of two other traditional songs that leap out from the pack: Down In The Willow Garden, starting out as an uplifting duet and then picking up the third voice later, and an a cappella as in Bring a Little Water, that adds the fourth voice of David Donnelly, whose contribution to the album earns him a Bevvy Sisters badge, ending the recording almost as excitingly as it begins. More of all of this please!
FOLK RADIO UK | Album of the Month | Simon Holland
Plan B has a dazzling vibrancy, it works on all levels and is a fabulous collection of songs as well as sounds. There is clearly a special chemistry that they share...Plan B is packed with a joie de vivre and an infectious energy.
Artful and highly seductive vocal harmonies with their trademark mix of sweetness and sass..enchanting and scintillating.. Authentic but at the same time innovative.. enlightening. This is an abundantly tasty product, and the whole album gets more enjoyable and addictive with each play.
I don't think that I've ever heard anything quite like this...there really is nothing to dislike about it.
FOLK RADIO UK - Live review.
The vocal power of Heather, Gina and Cera melds together with that combination of sass and class that is somehow edgy, thrilling and as sweet and sublime as a Michelin starred desert course.
FATEA - Neil King
Imagine the Andrew Sisters with switchblades, this is an album where attitude really counts.This is Americana and swing delivered with a rough edged Celtic pragmatism and the result is one that's well worth shouting about.