It’s already been a very good year for Natalie Prass. Having emerged from the shadows of Jenny Lewis’s touring band, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s self-titled debut album finally saw the light of day on Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb label back in January. With its roots deeply immersed in vintage soul, some early 70s West Coast rock and a little bit of country, this most sumptuous of records is sure to feature heavily in all of those “best of” lists come December.
Since its release, the star that is Natalie Prass has been firmly in the ascendency. Having earned coveted support slots with Son Lux, Hiss Golden Messenger, San Fermin and, most notably, Ryan Adams, she has criss-crossed back and forth across the Atlantic (including an appearance at last month’s Green Man festival) bringing the majesty of her music to a much wider audience.
Last here in February supporting Adams at the city’s O2 Academy, Prass is now back in Leeds in her very own right. Backed by her excellent three-piece band, this time she is playing the Brudenell Social Club, a venue whose warmth and dishevelled charm is much more in tune with the emotional intimacy of both her personality and music.
Natalie Prass opens with ‘Your Fool’, one of the seven songs from her debut album that she performs here tonight. Stripped of the rapture of their lavish, romantic studio orchestrations, these songs still retain all of the melancholic essence that lies at their very heart. On ‘Christy’ – a strangely prescient and unsettling tale of infidelity – Prass assumes the role of a twisted torch singer, pitching her delivery somewhere between the urbane confidence of Joan Wasser and the cracked vulnerability of Edith Piaf. On the ensuing ‘Bird of Prey’ she elicits every single ounce of joy from the song’s delightful melody, the softness of her voice now drawing comparisons with the Canadian chanteuse Feist.
‘Violently’ points to the creative capacity of the American restroom – Prass tells us that she wrote the song in the bathroom at college – its amusing backstory at complete odds with the sheer intensity of its undiluted heartache. The concluding brace of ‘My Baby Doesn’t Understand Me’ and the album’s stand-out track ‘Why Don’t You Believe In Me’ are as brilliant a coupling of songs as you are likely to hear this year, showcasing Prass’s impeccable phrasing and deftness of touch.
In between times, Prass introduces a couple of new songs, ‘Last Time’ and ‘Jass’ both of which possess strident, muscular rhythms which point towards a far more robust musical direction. And in recreating Janet Jackson’s ‘Any Time, Any Place’ as a sensual, funky slow jam affirms both her artistic versatility and range. If 2015 has been a very good year for Natalie Prass, then the future surely looks even better still.
Some more photos from this show can be found here
GIITTV’s interview with Natalie Prass at this year’s Green Man festival can be heard here