THE influence of reggae is everywhere in pop music just now, thanks to the infusion of Jamaican dancehall elements in R&B and grime. But that is the more strident sound of the island’s musical heritage; for a sweeter and deeper but just as danceable iteration, look to the radiant Hollie Cook.
Cook is the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul, but she undertook her own punk apprenticeship in the reactivated line-up of The Slits while launching a solo career which doesn’t just reference reggae but is totally immersed in the dub and roots reggae sound systems of her West London home.
Her touring band, who also supplied an energetic support set as General Roots, are young players but no arrivistes, proving themselves across a mixtape of reggae subgenres, while stirring in subtle soul and jazz inflections, including some acid blues guitar and funk keyboards to spice up an already rich sound.
Cook’s natural vocals, meanwhile, are suited to the sensitivity of lovers rock but also issued the siren call over the band’s sonorous dub backdrop.
The soulful plea of Stay Alive, which could be taken as a post-Grenfell Tower cry for help, was typical of her ability to marry music and message with a lightness of touch, while dub covers of The Shangri-Las Remember (Walking In the Sand) and The Carpenters’ Superstar also sealed her feel for girl group teen tragedy.
But reggae is also a party so Cook requested a boost in the bass and the crowd responded vociferously to her good vibrations.