SINCE the release of her 2013 debut album Sing to the Moon, much has changed in Laura Mvula’s life – principally divorce, followed by further heartbreak. “What can I say? I got some songs out of it,” she shrugged. So her adoring Glasgow audience were entirely supportive when she debuted a delicate new love song, hastily repurposed and retitled as Kiss My A***, with a bluesy vocal at the heart of the sensitive strumming.
Laura Mvula | Oran Mor, Glasgow | Rating ****
Mvula is not wanting in talent, so improvisation is probably the least of her skills. Her arrangements – drawing on jazz, gospel, Afro pop and classical choral traditions – are sophisticated and striking, but often deceptively sparse.
She can extrapolate music from simple handclaps, or cover Michael Jackson’s Human Nature with just her brother James backing her with a bare cello part.
Mvula is not really a pop writer and, if anything, the material from her forthcoming album The Dreaming Room is further out-there than before, more sonically interesting than melodically satisfying. Yet, despite the unexpectedness of her compositions, she has a knack for communication.
Being a choirmistress in her spare time, her vocal arrangements, as delivered by a trio of siren backing singers, were ravishing, but she couldn’t resist also roping in the audience for a number of singalongs – not the lusty terrace bellowing which usually passes for crowd participation at gigs, but rhythmic, repetitive reveries which had the room in raptures.