When thinking of Scotland, misty moors and soccer brawls probably come to mind before hippie folk singers in the tradition of Bob Dylan. But Scottish songstress Sandi Thom, whose debut, Smileâ€¦ It Confuses People, hit the scene last month, has found a niche for her powerful, soulful voice.Thom, who rose to fame by way of an unconventional “Global Web Tour” by webcasting performances from her basement, made an intimate appearance in Los Angeles’ Hotel CafÃ© on July 30. The Hotel CafÃ© created an ambiance reminiscent of an MTV Unplugged shoot thanks to dim candlelight and dark wood and velvet furnishings, despite the fact that Thom looked like sheâ€™d be more comfortable performing on the street. Contrary to the punk-rock picture of Thom gracing the promo posters, in person she is tiny and performs barefoot, wearing minimal make-up and a loose-fitting baby doll dress that appeared to have been crafted from old Mickey Mouse bed sheets, held together by a sparkly, butterfly brooch. Amidst a crowd largely comprised of twenty-somethings wearing ironic t-shirts and checkered vans, Thom and Co. began a set of eleven songs showcasing her brilliant voice and deep passion for her music.
She doesn’t waste time talking, instead going right into her first song. When the song faded out, a throaty yet squeaky voice nervously provided a lead in to “Little Remedy.” There is a drastic difference between the strength and warmth of her singing voice with that of her regular voice â€“ it adds to her earthy charm. â€œWhat if Iâ€™m Right,â€ â€œLonely Girl,â€ and â€œThey Donâ€™t Make Mirrors Like They Used To,â€ accentuate the strength and range of her voice and she brought the show to a crescendo with a soulful cover of Stevie Wonderâ€™s â€œLiving for the City.â€ Thom wisely opted for an a cappella rendition of her #1 UK single â€œI Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)â€ for the finale.
In person Thom delivers something that her album does not â€“ a powerfully passionate voice matched with soul and heart. She rarely looks at the audience, opting for full concentration on either her instrument or the space above audience membersâ€™ heads where her lyrics seem to be playing out for her to grab. In the style of a Christina Aguilera or Kelly Clarkson, Sandi Thom’s voice is so powerful and silky that she doesn’t need additional accompaniment. The integration of folkie blues rhythm and deeply personal lyrics give her a seal of artistic integrity.