MUSIC | Chastity Brown: You have to see her to believe her

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Chastity Brown live is somethin’ else and a half. She played June 12th to a packed Cedar Cultural Center and, from first song to last, it was one hellified set of about a dozen songs that, judging by the reaction of all in attendance, got finished way too fast.

On top of being an excellent vocalist and songsmith, Brown gets into her performance with heart, pouring on everything she’s got. And she’s got a lot. Of talent, passion, grit and, just in general, captivating presence. On the ballads her voice is achingly poignant. She throws herself into up-tempo numbers with real fire, hunched over the guitar, furiously alive from head to toe. All in singular fashion with casual, complete command. Hers is the raw-edged blues timbre of an old-time gospel shouter, generally softened to a reflective and mournful wail. Except when she rears back and gets forceful. Then, all bets are off and Brown breaks out of her bag to throw down with such sheer, elemental power as will, at times, raise goose bumps. Chastity Brown is, as they say, one of a kind, an artist of power and style unto herself.

The set list was her newest album High Noon Teeth, all of it, in the same order as the CD. And she never hit a false note. A killer highlight was “From My Old.” For that one, she rested her guitar and tickled pure hell out of the piano for some truly old time rock and soul, raising a head of gutbucket steam, belting out a beautiful turn somewhat reminiscent of Anita Pointer (of, yes, the Pointer Sisters). Backing her was guitarist Robert Mulrennan (of No Bird Sing) sitting in with her regular band of Michael X. (drums, percussion), Adam Wozniak (bass) and Nikki Schultz (vocals). They all did fine, with Schultz rendering an uncanny echo of Brown’s phrasing and general technique. A few times the two traded off, sharing vocal leads, and it was absolutely magical.

Right before Chastity Brown, an interesting trio of Alexei Moon Casselle (guitar, harmonica), Ryan Lovan (drums), and Channy Moon Casselle (vocals, violin) from the band Roma di Luna delivered sweet emotive ballads, including a splendidly original take on The Beatles’ “I Will” that you just never saw coming. No Bird Sing opened with serviceable, moody alt-rock on guitar, piano, and drums behind stilted artifice palmed off as poetic rap.

Anytime you have the chance to catch Chastity Brown in concert or at a club, you owe it to yourself to enjoy this premier artist who really must be experienced to be believed.