Sometimes a performer makes you think about what could have been. This happened to me after seeing Nuela Charles perform a blazing set at Canadian Music Week.
I have a guitar named, Butter. At 15 I fancied myself the musical mash-up of Eric Clapton, Tracy Chapman and Fiona Apple. I began guitar lessons but skipped out on my fourth one when a friend got Vanessa Williams concert tickets and invited me to go with. Butter has since become a glorified prop in various rooms over the years.
When Nuela Charles began playing her guitar, looking like a rock star in all her glory, I thought, “Damn that Vanessa Williams!”
Charles is an artist in her own league. Beautiful and reserved in appearance, when she starts to perform it’s like R&B princess, Tamia, gone wild. And while alt-rock is a common term, Charles’s music, dubbed alt-soul, is fresh and exactly that. Rock, jazzy, pop, soulful, and at times haunting. This diverse clash is not surprising once you learn that Charles carries with her a Canadian, Swiss and Kenyan cultural history that has each ingrained its own unique influence into her music.
Charles CMW performance at the El Mocambo was one to see. Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, the singer/songwriter was free of the kind of pretentiousness that sometimes taint artists with her talent. Instead she was as impressed with playing in the famed El Mocambo upstairs room, once a stomping ground for the Rolling Stones, as the audience was impressed with hearing her play. “I am kind of overwhelmed being in this room” she shared excitedly. “Because I found out that the Stones used to play in this room…That’s like crazy! Wow is the only word for it.”
The audience responded to her right away, cheering, grooving and giving back to her as much energy as she gave to them. It’s wonderful when an artist can make strangers in a room feel like family for a few precious moments.
Already nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for her first album, A Different Kind of Fire, her most recent release, Aware, is real real good. “Unfortunate Love” is getting major love from CBC radio.
Charles is clearly not going anywhere and I’m thrilled!