This year's Non-Comm radio convention wrapped up on Friday night, with standout performances from Laura Mvula, The Lone Bellow, Free Energy and The Relatives, the re-united gospel quintet from Dallas, Texas.
First up was Mvula, the seriously talented British singer-songwriter with an arresting stage presence and distinctly dignified vocal delivery. On stage and on her just-released debut album, Sing to the Moon, Mvula, who's from Birmingham, plays piano and proffers her own brand of chamber-soul. On Friday, her band featured a harp, cello and electric violin, with surprising arrangements putting handclaps and multi-part harmony to use, while puling from gospel and funk. She bears watching.
The Relatives closed out the confab, dressed in matching white suits and sporting (not too) choreographed stage moves. Formed by brothers Gean and Tommie West (second from left and far right) in 1970, the band broke up ten years later before recently reforming and recording their new album The Electric Word with Jim Eno of Spoon producing. The unique niche is psychedlia and funk-flavored gospel. While praising the Lord - "Make time for The Man / Try to live right if you can," they sang on Friday, while backed by a band of young white musicians - they came on like "Psychedlic Shack" era late period Temptations.
In competition with Phoenix's Wednesday night set for the most fun of the fest was Free Energy, the hook happy Philly rockers who continued their shamelessly catchy winning streak with the self-released Love Sign earlier this year. I've seen this band a ton of times because I followed them around and wrote a couple giant stories about them back in 2011, and I keep expecting to be sick of them. Hasn't happened yet, however, and singer Paul Sprangers, in particular, keeps stepping up his game as a live performer.
Lastly, there's The Lone Bellow, the band of harmonizers that that shows that there's still life in the fresh wave of folk and country bands thst keeps coming in the wake of Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers success.Lead singer Zach Williams - he's the one singing in the middle, with the wild look on his eye - may live in Brooklyn, but he's a son of the South with country and sacred music heartache in his songs. Nice cover of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery," too.