I really shouldn't be surprised any more. But my wee sister has a habit of pulling things out the bag that do surprise her biggest fans and her family. Her determination and artistic development is always a pleasure to experience.
This was her debut show as a solo artist under her own name, after albums with her band TeenCanteen and under the guise of Ette. Both released albums in 2016.
2017 saw Carla accepted on to a prestigious songwriting residency at the Banff Arts Centre in Canada. She had 2-weeks with her own studio overlooking snowy mountains to focus on writing and recording. It proved to be a life changing couple of weeks, new friendships were made, new confidence was discovered and the songs flowed. Part of the confidence came from people like Howard Billerman (Arcade Fire) and nashville award winning songwriters telling Carla how talented she was and how much they loved her songs.
Filled with enthusiasm, Carla booked to return to Canada in September to work with Howard to produce an album. So she scrimped and saved, then received confirmation that she had a Creative Scotland grant just before she left, so she could record an album with her new friends.
It's an incredible album that she is sitting on, and the songs keep coming! She is in a rich vein of form and it is so pleasing to see. I look forward to it coming out when the time is right.
Carla's friends from Canada were invited over for some shows at Celtic Connections, Neu! Reeky, in Manchester, a 6Music session and in London. Amazingly they all made it over!
They arrived on Sunday, she of them ended up playing Janice Forsyth's show on Monday, then there was lots of rehearsals and catching up. So much so that by yesterday afternoon Carla could barely speak!
I met her in the Hug and Pint and she was drinking warm whiskey but she couldn't talk! The claivar I bought her must have helped!
Taking to the stage with Kev (drums), Laura (synths and b vox), Jessie (bass and b vox), Brett (guitar) from Canada and with friends Amanda (guitar and sometime TeenCanteen) and Paul (synth and Ette) it was quite a feat that they could all fit on stage! They all played and combined exceptionally well - especially considering they had never all met until Tuesday!
Carla caused laughter by admitting (and you could hear it) that she had almost lost her voice but then produced an astonishing performance. Quite where she found it from I will never know, I'm not sure she will either! Sheer determination, will-power and adrenaline got her through along with lots of support on stage and in the audience.
The sound in the Hug and Pint was top class. The band were brilliant, looking great, sounding even better. The new songs build on everything that Carla has produced and highlighted through her work to date - melodies flow, stories are told, there are hooks galore and even the odd knock our uppercut, and choruses to sing on first listen.
Milk and Honey opened proceedings with Carla playing theremin and looking like she was having the time of her life. As were her incredible band. Smiles were on stage and off. Meet Me In Paris was glorious and then there was a few songs from her recent past. Bird In The Sky is my favourite Ette song but it was speeded up and psychedelicised (is that a word?!) last night. Attack Of The Glam Soul Cheerleaders was ace - total Spector meets Motown in London in 1967, before a run through of TeenCanteen's Honey prompted Carla to invite another friend on stage with Sita P from TeenCanteen helping on the beautiful layered harmonies.
New single Lights In The Dark is stunning and it gets better with every listen, it has been stuck in my head all day. Strangely all of Carla's new stuff made much more sense after seeing it live with her friends and her band.
Wanting What I Can't Have was a highlight. Coming across like a Screamadelica era Primal Scream with great beats, synths and a soaring chorus that goes on an on mantra style at the end.
Lullaby was beautiful. Slowly easing into itself before building into a stunning Harrison-esque instrumental with fantastic guitar leading back to vocals.
Carla had to get the band to introduce themselves as she couldn't talk - yet somehow she could sing and her vocals on Lullaby were exceptional.
The night concluded with Carla introducing the song Impossible Stuff, asking the audience to just go with them at the end. The band took the audience on a real trip, the start is Disney-esque, so playful and melodic and then the chorus just soars and soars. There is then a delicious spine tingling breakdown before everything builds and goes gloriously crazy - brilliant fun was had on stage.
Check this version that Carla recorded with the Scottish Opera just 2-days after returning from Canada last September!
Find out more at www.carlajennifereaston.com or Facebook or @carlajeaston