top of page

Jessica Lynn

Tuesday 11th July 2023

Suburbia, Southampton

Only the week before I’d been chatting with a chap just before Sons of Liberty came on at the Forum in Tunbridge Wells in support of Molly Hatchet. Given the incongruity of this venerable bunch of weather-beaten Southern rockers washing up in the leafy confines of the stockbroker belt, the conversation turned to similar instances and he told the tale of having seen Iron Maiden in a pub in Ireland in the middle of nowhere at a low point in their career. I’d like to think that someone walking past Suburbia on this particular evening in sunny Southampton, perhaps needing a drink to block out the dismal surrounding area, or taking a punt on the live music sign, was temped into the dark venue and had the good fortune to catch an act that will become their own “you’ll never guess who I saw” story in years to come.

The Suburbia is a great little venue and huge kudos goes to any outfit that puts on live music, and in this case, offers excellent local beers with part of the proceeds going to music charities. The staff were friendly and welcoming. However, the emphasis in the previous sentence was on “little”. As mentioned above the venue is also not in a particularly salubrious area (which is being kind). I’ve been following (not in the stalking sense) Jessica Lynn since she appeared way down the bill at Ramblin’ Man Fair in 2017 and played a stonkin’ set that was a festival highlight. Since then she’s played some big stages in the US, supporting huge Country acts, performed in some striking TV special performances and has steadily built up a loyal following. Can you see the contrasting picture? It’s Rhinestone Cowboy riding down Broadway versus aged pensioner riding mobility scooter past the local kebab shop in the vicinity of distressed docks. I’m sure that the band must have rocked up at the location earlier and said a collective WTF before calling their booking agent.

What was massively impressive about Jessica and her family filled band was that, despite being crammed onto a tiny stage, with limited lighting and facilities (the sound man did a great job but had earlier told the band he hadn’t dealt with as many mics before and it wasn’t clear if his small board could manage) they played as if they were going out as headliners at Madison Square Garden. If you combine professionalism, charisma and talent (let’s face it, we can all pick acts with none of these attributes) then you’ll probably go far. Jessica Lynn has these in spades. She has one of those strong but warm, honey toned vocal styles (that can also have a bit of a wicked edge to them) that I associate with classic Country singers like Patsy Cline. She has been compared to Shania Twain, which is fair enough as, not only is there a definite similarity in their vocal timbre, but they also both have a dynamic and attractive stage appeal. Jessica didn’t stop moving the whole evening, with the exception of a solo spot when she delivered a beautiful version of the Mac’s ‘Landslide’. Cradling an acoustic or an electric guitar she was bopping, jiving and throwing shapes, hair flying everywhere, in a non-stop performance that was totally captivating. She’s also an accomplished musician; repeating the stagecraft from the last time I saw her, she not only took the lead on the classic guitar intro to ‘Johnny B Goode’ at the end of the set, but also slid into the drum seat and smashed into them with all the enthusiasm and control of a sober Keith Moon (which gave drummer Matthew Bauer - not a relative! – the opportunity to loon around stage front with a pair of maracas).

Amazingly, last year’s ‘Lone Rider’ album was her first studio collection. It’s a great album and well worth checking out, full of melodic, rocky songs with a Country sheen. The band played several numbers from this, including ‘Getaway Car’, which epitomises her upbeat sound, with witty lyrics and punchy guitar (and is very Shania!), and ‘Now or Never’, which features a guitar run that is one note shy of being a copy of the ‘Born To Run’ riff (the last one in the run if you’re interested). In addition to ‘Lone Rider’ the musician has a plethora of banging, crowd pleasing singles in her catalogue, including current release ‘Ain’t Done with You Yet’ and classic crossover tunes like ‘Roadhouse’ and ‘Crazy Idea’. These, as well as ‘Mixed Signals’, another single from earlier this year which featured in the set, are superb slices of good time but sophisticated Country music.

It was a sterling performance. The band need a mention: husband Steve Sterlacci on lead looked like he could certainly handle any unwanted stage invaders (not that anyone could have squeezed on there to be honest) as well as delivering some tasty fretwork, including some nifty Country bends. Dad, Peter Calamera, on bass was a benign figure at the back but also gave off a hint of an ex-marine vibe in his wife beater and baseball cap. Mum, Victoria, was confined to stage right on keyboards, hidden in the funereal gloom behind a lethal hanging speaker (which had already claimed one victim earlier); her backing vocals were especially good. It might sound a bit like the Partridge Family but this was one tight, rocking outfit that blew the audience away while whipping up the temperature on what was already a warm evening. As a side note (very much B flat in this instance) there was some powerfully malodorous BO emanating from parts of the audience, which at times reached an eye watering level. The audience was totally enthralled by the performance but, possibly, the band may not have been as equally enthralled by the fug coming back from to them from the floor. It was a fabulous evening though and it was hugs all around following a final encore after the audience had been asked “do you want Rock or Country?” and, following a surprise response of Country and a quick huddle around the drum kit, Jessica and the band launched into a cover of ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’, which was a lot of fun and very much the icing on the top of a particularly delicious cake. If you missed this tour you need to keep the peepers open for this rising star’s next visit to the UK. I can’t imagine that there will many future opportunities to see her in such intimate venues as this again.

Simon Green

bottom of page