By Dave Woodhall.
It must be almost ten years since I first saw Lisa Mills, fronting Big Brother & the Holding Company and making those blues classics made famous by Janis Joplin her own.
Since then Lisa has been a regular visitor to Britain, gaining a small but devoted following at festivals and venues such as the Robin. Wednesday night was another of her triumphs.
Following a lively set from local three-piece Lucy & the Rambler (themselves worth catching), Lisa walked on stage unheralded and backed only by bass player Ian Jennings, she had the audience enthralled from her opening number to the set closer. She seems to have changed her live act, with a greater emphasis on country blues than the harder rocking style she played in her earlier days. Without the full band she’s used on previous visits her set could have been a bit samey in places, but the purity of Lisa’s voice and her sheer stage presence shone through time and again.
It’s hard to pick out highlights but a rendition of Time Is On My Side was a standout, as was a song called (I think) Do It Every Time, showing the extraordinary range of this lady’s talent. It may sound exaggerated but this is a voice that bears comparison with any blues and soul singer from any era.
In between times there were tales of Southern life, pistol-packin’ grannies, trailers and all. Not only can Lisa sing but she’s a born entertainer. It takes no mean ability to keep an audience entertained for over 90 minutes with just an acoustic guitar and a bass for support, but Lisa Mills managed this with ease.
There was a reference to one song being written in Kidderminster, which made me wonder what would happen of one resident of that town (or thereabouts) did the same with this lady as he did with Allison Kraus. Robert Plant and Lisa Mills would certainly be a collaboration to savour.