Saturday, August 13, 2016

Sari Schorr - A Force Of Nature

Sari Schorr is “described by many blues pundits as a modern-day hybrid of Janis Joplin and Tina Turner”, it says here.  Meh.  Listening to ‘Demolition Man’, the seventh track on her new album, the thought that struck me was that she could be a new David Coverdale.
I'm kidding, a bit.  I don’t mean that Schorr sings like an old bloke in the strained manner of latter day DC.  But with its chugging blues-rock groove, pushed on by Julian Maeso’s organ and embellished by slide guitar from Innes Sibun, and Schorr hollering away powerfully over the top, ‘Demolition Man’ bears a passing and pleasing resemblance to early 80s Whitesnake.
There’s a similar spirit abroad in the opening tracks on A Force Of Nature.  ‘Aunt Hazel’ in particular, titled after a slang term for heroin, rides in on rough’n’ready rhythm guitar over reined in, choppy drums in a manner that evokes Bad Company.  Schorr’s raunchy vocal is interspersed with guitar licks from Sibun, who adds a big solo as they pick up the tempo the end.
Sari Schorr - more than just a powerhouse
In fact Sibun is on sparkling form throughout his contributions here, providing a convincing foil for Schorr’s gutsy, soulful voice, with its hint of vibrato.  They get funky on ‘Cat And Mouse’, with interesting, squelchy guitar tones and Maeso’s organ bubbling around rhythmically in the background.  And when Oli Brown takes over guitar duties, on ‘Damn The Reason’ and ‘Oklahoma’, he delivers the goods too.  The latter is just one example of Schorr’s range as a songwriter, with its jazzy, understated feel and riff that carries echoes of ‘Riders On The Storm’, before it builds in intensity.  They get jazzier still on ‘Letting Go’, a song about bereavement with repeated piano chords and judicious use of harp contributing to a mournful Gallic mood, redolent of Gary Moore’s ‘Picture Of The Moon’.
In another different vein is ‘Black Betty’, currently released as a single in a radio edit.  No, it’s not a cover of the Ram Jam hit.  It begins with a distant, antique-sounding work song vocal, before electrifying the Leadbelly original with a stomping rhythm that approaches Zeppelin territory, ahead of a downbeat outro.
There are some efforts that don’t quite hit the bullseye.  A song contributed by Walter Trout, ‘Work No More’, never really rises above the workaday, even with the injection of some weeping guitar from Trout himself.  And ‘Kiss Me’ aims for the sultry but never quite gets there.
But there’s some interesting variety to finish.  Schorr takes the poppy soul of The Supremes’ ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’ and powers it up into something ansgty and plaintive, without entirely discarding its Motown roots.  (Mind you, if she's looking for covers I'd prefer her to dig out something like a Deep Purple obscurity from Come Taste The Band.)  Meanwhile the closing ‘Ordinary Life’ is a simple ballad with an intricate piano arrangement, which could be from the pen of Carole King or Jimmy Webb.
Schorr is undoubtedly a find, writing strong songs in a range of styles, with interesting lyrics.  Vocally she has the goods to do justice to that range too, with a bluesy voice that can deliver both power and delicacy.  The partnership with Innes Sibun is a winner too, and his presence in Schorr’s new band The Engine Room is encouraging – hopefully it’s a lasting relationship rather than a marriage of convenience.

A Force Of Nature is released by Manhaton Records on 2 September.

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