Sari Schorr Is A Force Of Nature
I have been a very lucky blues lover lately as I have been receiving some fantastic new artists lately and I can’t wait to share these releases with you. One that just caught my eyes and ears is from a singer/songwriter that I had never heard before, but who was being produced by legendary producers Mike Vernon.
If the name rings a bell but you just can’t place where you’ve heard of him before, he’s been responsible for some of the most well-known and respected production on the blues scene since the 1960’s. He’s worked with the likes of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, Climax Blues Band, Ten Years After, Dr. Feelgood, Robben Ford, and even a very young David Bowie when he was switching from singing the blues to becoming a pop star.
Vernon is not only a top producer, he’s been known to play various instruments (mostly bass and percussion) and write liner notes, take photographs, and generally be a one man wrecking crew for the blues.
When I spot his name on an album, I immediately assume it’s going to be a high quality project, and in the case of Sari Schorr’s album, A Force Of Nature, I was in no way disappointed. In fact it is safe to say that the album is easily going to end up on my “best of” list at the end of the years.
Even the greatest producers need the raw material in order to create a great album, and Schorr certainly has the material. She’s a terrific songwriter, penning nine of the twelve songs on the album, and she has a great earthy voice that is perfect for the blues.
She’s joined by The Engine Room, a strong core of musicians including Innes Sibun and Quique Bonal on guitar; Julian Maeso on keys; Nani Conde on bass; Jose Mena on drums; and Vernon himself on percussion. They are joined by special guests Walter Trout playing guitar on his composition Work No More; Oli Brown on guitar; John Baggott on organ; Jesus Lavillas on keys; Dave Keyes on piano and organ; and Rietta Austin adding backing vocals.
Ain’t Got No Money starts the album off with a blistering lick before turning the song over to Schorr’s distinctive voice. It doesn’t take long before you realize that you are at the beginning of journey that has enormous potential. Her songwriting is very strong and she finds new venues to explore within the blues format. The guitar work is slightly reminiscent of Carlos Santana and the fills add a nice touch to the vocals. Oh yeah, she’s good. Real good.
The next song, Aunt Hazel, offers a change of pace with a little bit of funk in the mix. Her voice strains at the edge of her ability to control a scream – something like Janis Joplin when she reached deep into her soul to come out with those sounds that said more than words ever could.
There’s a little bit of a slow groove happening with Damn The Reason. The lyrics are very strong as anyone who has ever inexplicably fallen in love. It’s only been three songs at this point and she has mixed up her approach and mood nicely while still projecting a strong persona. I think it’s safe to say by this point I’m a fan and can’t wait to play some of these songs on Time For The Blues.
A little more funk ahead with Cat And Mouse. Schorr is self-assured and intertwines her vocals with the guitars to create a very cool song. The break soars leading the song into a slightly different direction. Very enjoyable.
Black Betty is the first non Schorr written song. It’s written by the great Huddie Ledbetter and has that great delta feel while displaying Schorr’s versatility. She makes it sound easy, and that’s a very tough thing to do. I’m beginning to wonder if there’s much she can’t do. It features a great transition from delta to electric that makes you sit up and take notice.
She follows up with Walter Trout’s Work No More and Trout himself adds his guitar to the mix. The tempo is slower, more deliberate, and it allows Schorr’s voice to take command of the song before sharing space with a great guitar run.
A little slide guitar opens Demolition Man and the organ adds a nice riff. It’s a fun song of a woman and her special man – the kind of bouncy number that you know has to be fun when you see it live.
Despite sharing a title with a Rogers and Hammerstein classic, Schorr’s version of Oklahoma has nothing to do with that earlier Broadway spectacular. This one starts off nice and sweet and the poetry in the lyrics is especially sweet. This is a very good, very strong number.
Letting Go is a beautiful sad ballad with deceptively simple lyrics. It has almost a Kurt Weil feel to it and it’s a nice play off the previous song.
She follows up with a rocking Kiss Me. It’s an interesting choice and is one of the most accessible songs on the album. I could actually hear this one getting airplay on more adult contemporary stations than blues – but it’s a kicking song whoever plays it.
The Schorr really turns things on its head with a reimagining of the Supremes great hit, Stop! In The Name Of Love. You read that right, one of the more famous Motown songs gets a gutsy treatment, much like the way Ike and Tina Turner used to take pop songs and give them even more soul. Here is more of the Janis Joplin-esque vocals and it made me reevaluate the song. A bold and daring choice!
The album closes with a beautiful quiet song, Ordinary Life, that sums up a dream that many of us have to have that place in the world that is just ours. The simple piano underscores the beauty in Schorr’s vocals and it’s a gorgeous way to bring the album to a close.
A Force Of Nature is a stunning debut album that should be in every music lover’s library. We’ll be featuring it for a while to come of Time For The Blues and can’t wait to hear what you think of the album.
Schorr is merely at the beginning of what could very well be a great and lasting career. I’m already a big fan and looking forward to more of her work and will be checking to see when she’s going to be out on tour.
If you feel so inclined, you can find out more about her and where she’ll be at her website http://www.sarischorr.com/. If you’re lucky enough to catch her live, be sure to let me know how it was and feel free to tell her The Professor sent you!