Singer songwriter Jackie Bristow in front of vintage radios

Jackie Bristow

Sitting Room Session / 
So Vintage, Te Awanga / 
8 March / 
By Rob Harbers

She was raised in Gore’s Hokonui heartland. Spent time in Australia. Then Austin,Texas. Lately of Nashville, Tennessee. Songstress Jackie Bristow. A voice as silky and golden as her honey-toned tresses. An intimate encounter on a sultry late-summer night.  A small but perfectly formed audience.  The ever-so-industrial-chic surrounds of the back room at Te Awanga’s So Vintage. These were the components that coalesced alchemically in the latest outing of the cavalcade of delights that is The Sitting Room Sessions.

From the opening number “Shot of Gold”, we knew we were in for a treat, and the next hour or two flew by in a rich outpouring of skilful guitar playing and emotive lyrics. The tunes told of a diversity of themes, from dust storms at the Joshua tree, through the charms of Aotearoa, and spiritual experiences in Californian ashrams. The stuff of country songs, indeed, and accompanied by an enthusiastic backing choir of crickets, or cicadas, depending on who you talk to (and nearly the cause of an entomological debate, would you believe?)

Jackie wears her considerable chops lightly. At all times there was a feeling of being with a prodigiously talented friend who politely blows you away with the depth of her skills, always with a smile. A major talent, but humble with it.

As alluded to previously, subject matter ranged far and wide.   Tender love songs counterpointed by songs such as “Fallen Youth”, based on an anonymous poem found in the Gore Library, which conveyed its anti-war message all the more powerfully for the restrained subtlety with which it was played. More highlights were provided by songs such as “Freedom” and “Holy Mess”, the latter apparently having been the cause of a mass walkout at a previous gig in the buckle of the American Bible belt. That has to be a recommendation in itself!

It’s easy to place Jackie into the class of country-tinged Kiwi female vocalists, alongside Ebony Lamb, Reb Fountain, Tami Neilson, et al, but her level of repute in her adopted home of America means she operates in a different milieu from them. This also means she’s perhaps lesser known in her home country. But shows of the calibre we saw tonight have the potential to turn this around quickly.

So, once more, a happy audience leaves a Sitting Room Session, while looking forward to the next congregation, to be held at the same venue on March 8. For details go to the SRS Facebook page.

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