Vocalist Brigette McWilliams bubbles over with the self- assured, positivity- on-tap forthrightness that seems to come so effortlessly to American soul artists. It is curious then, when the affable exuberance deserts Brigette for a few minutes. When asked to namecheck a few current R&B, artists she actually admires, she stumbles. The words Puff Daddy, Blackstreet, Foxy Brown et al quite deliberately fail to slip from her lips. "Um, ah, you're going to get me into trouble," she laughs, embarrassed. She eventually gives the qualified thumbs up to Omar and D'Angelo, but her hesitancy is really no surprise. McWilliams's second album, Too Much Woman, very much marks her out as an evangelist of old-school soul. Like Mary J Blige and Erykah Badu, she takes her singing and woman-of-the-1990s outlook seriously, but she stands apart from contemporary, pop-orientated slickness. Too Much Woman is musician-centred, hosting 1970s soul veterans who last sold records in their millions when vinyl was king: Earth Wind and Fire musicians, Jimmy Macon from The Gap Band, and Bobby Watson of Rufus. And they make their presence felt, to Brigette's delight. "I wanted to make an album that, if you put it on now it sounds good, but also if you put it on in 10 years, it still sounds good," she explains. "The musicians are what the music is about and these guys I call the originals, who created phenomenal music. It was important to use the real people. I like the idea of my music being nu-classic soul, but at the same time I was trying to create my own place."
Working on her own terms - and getting it right - was crucial for Brigette this time around. Debut album Take Advantage of Me (euphemistically dubbed her "learning curve") saw the naive newcomer being moulded by the corporate machinery of the record label, and her own identity was lost in the process. Too Much Woman representsa more authentic representation of her personality. "It's about the growing pains of life, constantly learning, because I think that is what life is all about. I think people will identify with it."
And in a funny way, her tour with Luther Vandross is symbolic of the way the threads of her life are pulling together. When Brigette was growing up, her session-singer mother, Paulette McWilliams, worked with him. "I always remember that he was really nice, very funny and full of jokes," she gurgles. "This will be my first tour of Europe, but I don't really get nervous. It'll be a party up there onstage, so I hope people will come to see me."
Brigette McWilliams supports Luther Vandross at Wembley Arena (0181- 900 1234) to 10 NovReuse content