Primary Instrument: Vocal
Desire: the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bangs up one old narrow street and down another... We’ve all ridden on that street-car haven’t we? Songstress and blues harpist Florence Joelle certainly has. You can hear it in the hypnotic rumble of ‘Hell Be Damned And Look Out’, which opens this, her extraordinarily self-assured long-playing debut. You can hear it in the insistent, needling guitar of ‘Stardust Merchant’, in the irresistible rockabilly lope of ‘Never Thought I’d See The Day’.
You might think from the understated wisdom of songs such as the languid heart-melt of ‘I’ll Come Running’ and the heady rumba flamenca of ‘Gypsy Boy’ (gentler musically but still cutting deep) that here is a woman who has seen some nights and loved some loves… and you’d be right. She weaves the kind of potent magic only experience can conjure in the smoky seduction of ‘The Look In His Eyes’, and brings a similarly wise/weary worldliness to her recipe for ‘Watermelon Gin’, which ebbs and flows with delicious melancholy. But try to pin her down as some kinda lovelorn torch-singer, and you’d be way off the mark: the brilliantly spiky centrepiece of the album is absolutely ‘True To Myself’ “From now on I’ll be independently true, no one can stop me, not even you.” Lose yourself in its glorious, galloping beat and listen to her peerless band fly: on drums and percussion - Arthur Lager (ciné auteur of notoriety), on bass Chris Campion (also a film-maker / soundtrack composer), and on lead guitar Huck Whitney (composer / The Flaming Stars).
While all these songs already sound like standards, it’s remarkable to remember that they are in fact all original Florence Joelle compositions, alongside which Chick Webb’s ‘40s reefer blues ‘When I Get Low I Get High’ and the ‘50s R&B staple ‘Unchain My Heart' sound perfect, yet weirdly almost less familiar in the unique versions presented than the songs you’re hearing here for the first time.
As much coloured in smouldering deep reds as by the Blues, the masterful arrangements of the band swing and sway and soar around that voice � and, O! That voice! Feline, French, a sinuous invocation of romance and a singular statement of intent. In it you hear all of Florence Joelle’s history distilled (and fermented…) … Paris-born, she was bred on jazz at home, and on the music of the city’s streets: the Gypsy art of Django Reinhardt, bal musette, and North African rai. As a girl she began to collect rock’n’roll, doo-wop and early blues… to paraphrase what was once said of Billie Holliday: to hear that voice is to truly hear jazz. While paying homage to the past, Florence Joelle’s Kiss of Fire have carved out a unique sound that vibrates in the present. Happening right now, you will never forget your first Kiss Of Fire.
David Peschek, London NW10, Spring 2011
Super fine and sassy singer fusing a Tarrantino-esque sense of cool with a vocal style that imbibes both Peggy Lee and Edith Piaf with touches of jazz and rock 'n' roll. Time Out
“They conjure an atmosphere of sultry exoticism on this mix of standards and originals that combine early R'n'B stylings with French chanson and create something very special. Listening to these settings and her delightful voice the real world fades from view and you're suddenly decades away in a Left Bank cellar or a Manhattan cabaret. Addictive and compulsive.” Bucketfull of Brains
The whole thing has tinges of R'n'B, blues, jazz, calypso, rockabilly and even some chanson 'n' swing, with reverb-y guitar to the fore. Fantastic. Intoxica Records, Christmas Top 10
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