Deborah Bonham has rock music in her genes. The little sister of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, she grew up immersed in that world and here she makes her own foray into writing and performing with this high quality collection of bluesy, ballsy country-tinged tracks.
Bonham has been blessed with a powerful voice. At her best (on her cover of Stay With Me Baby and on her own song Go Now) she can sound rather like Janis Joplin, all sultry and Southern, with a throat that’s no stranger to tobacco products or the odd sweet shot of Jim Beam. There are other moments though when she veers a little too close to sounding like Shania Twain for anyone’s liking. Thankfully for the most part she concentrates on emulating the former.
Named after the Bonham family home, the house built by John and her other brother Michael, The Old Hyde is unsurprisingly a family affair with her nephew Jason on drumming duties for much of the album – that is when her mate Mick Fleetwood isn’t doing the honours on Open Up Your Heart. Fleetwood Mac‘s Need Your Love So Bad is also one of the tracks Bonham turns her attention to with winning results. Another cover, of Ike Turner’s Black Coffee, is as smooth as a cup of the strong, dark stuff.
Bonham’s self-penned efforts fall into two distinct camps – full-on gutsy rock numbers and by the books ballads. The latter tend to be drawn out, unremarkable affairs that fail to give her voice the work out it deserves. Without You is a particular culprit, with Bonham all of a sudden sounding very like Sarah McLachlan.
The exception to this rule comes in the album’s closing title track, an emotive tribute to her brothers and her father, to the Old Hyde, the house they all once shared. The sense of loss is palpable as she sings “the house still remains and the land it’s still the same, only the song has now changed.” It’s the most personal track on the album and obviously comes from a still painful place so you forgive the slightly cheesy intrusion of a penny-whistle over the closing chords.
Bonham is at her best when letting go and riding high on a tide of guitars. Her guitarist Peter Bullick gives her what she needs in this respect and the album also features a guest spot by Pretenders‘ guitarist Robbie McIntosh as well as the one by Fleetwood. Of her own tracks, Go Now and Religion showcase her talents to best effect and she certainly knows how to handle a standard. What We’ve Got is a straightforward country stomp, while The Devil’s In New Orleans is even more old school with a harmonica moment and even a little honky-tonk piano.
It comes as no real surprise to find out that Bonham will soon be touring with Jools Holland. An unapologetically traditional songstress of considerable class, Bonham will probably be right at home with Holland and his band.