Valiant Swart went to Mississippi and New Orleans to discover the roots of the blues and along the way he discovered Eden Brent playing amazing blues and boogie woogie piano in a bar in the heart of the Crescent City. She featured in his television programme about his pilgrimage and was invited to perform at the Aardklop Festival in Potchefstroom.
In 2003 she released Something Cool, with the track "South Africa" that celebrated her visit to this country. It is a great bluesy, jazzy old-timey pop album that came to my attention because Carina 'Katvrou' Laubscher sent me a copy. Before that I had never heard of Eden Brent and never expected to hear of her again. She seemed a novelty act of sorts; a White woman pounding a piano and shouting gutsy songs on the topic of the traditional blues tropes. As far as I was concerned she would probably be stuck in bars all over the States performing to drunks and blues parasites to ever diminishing returns.
Anyhow, now I not only own Something Cool but also Mississippi Number One, a 2008 release of more of the same, yet every bit as good as the earlier album, if not better. It is once again a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Ms Brent.
Recently I made the effort and spend the money to buy Hugh Laurie's Let Them Talk album, a set of songs seated in territory not a million miles away from Eden Brent's 'hood. She hails from Mississippi and Laurie's influences appear to be early jazz and blues with the N'Orleans touch, with an earnest Englishman's application to a style he had to learn whereas Brent no doubt lived it. This is the difference between the two albums: Laurie, for all his apparent love for the genre and the material, does come across as earnest, mostly simply trying not to fuck up. Eden Brent clearly revels in this music and the connection she has with it. Some of the songs are introspective and some are rollicking; all are great fun.
Some of the songs were written by Eden Brent, some by her late mother Carole, and some are standards. All of it is seamlessly, uniformly excellent. From novelty tunes like "Fried Chicken" to the serious concerns of "Afraid To Let Go", "Close The Door" and "All Over Me." Brent plays and sings with powerful authority and fluency. She is a real deal and should be a big deal.
She IS the Mississippi Number One.