Fertile Ground / Kellylee Evans The Pepper Jack Café, Hamilton ON - January 28, 2006

Hamilton has no soul. This dirty, poverty-stricken steel town is depressed. It's in need of soul, any soul, to brighten the darkness and inject some hope into its concrete jungle. Luckily, what's lacking in the streets was in full force at Pepper Jack's, as Baltimore-based travellers Fertile Ground and Kelly Lee Evans delivered the much needed goods. Both bands were fantastic, igniting the half-packed club in enough sugary soul and sensual funk to fix half the downtown core alone. Kellylee Evans finished second in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocalist Competition in 2004, and her 45-minute opening set proved why. Alongside sparse, groove-based jazz, Evans sang dominantly, filling each vocal belt with enough soothing, syrupy soul to conjure up comparisons to Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and a bevy of other jazzy heavyweights. Featuring songs off her highly anticipated debut, Fight or Flight, Evans is a budding talent in Canada's jazz-urban scene, and is well worth a listen after a good dusting of old Billie Holiday LPs. After Evans, the rejuvenating soul continued with independent icons Fertile Ground. A band that does everything themselves, from promotion to booking, recording and publicity, Fertile Ground are a true indie success, and fresh off a packed two-night stint in Toronto amidst a week-long Canadian tour, the collective exemplified that if desired, one can do everything right on their own. From the onset, the sextet crafted lavishly sensual melodies that perfectly accentuated front-woman Navasha Daya's sinful croon. Paying homage to the history of black music, alongside unique, original interpretations, Fertile Ground touched upon several focal points in black music history throughout 90 minutes of tight, sweaty original soul. Borrowing from the etched schemata of Barry White, Gil-Scott Heron, James Brown and Ms. Holiday, Daya and company cleverly crafted the teachings of each influence into a cohesive, highly climactic blend of unique Northern soul that kept the crowd lathered up well past last call. This was consistently fiery, politicized, stylised soul performed by some of the best in the business.