Thursday, August 26, 2021

Quickies - Summer Singles from Sari Schorr, Dion, Elles Bailey and Davy Knowles

Sari Schorr – ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (In The Pines)’
It’s taken me a few weeks to get round to this one, for which the more fool me.
Although she normally follows a modern blues-rock road, Sari Schorr has some previous when it comes to raking through antique folk-blues tunes from the Lead Belly canon.  Witness her quaking, eyeballs-out take on ‘Black Betty’ on her most recent album Live In Europe.
This time around she’s chosen a different vibe, with the downbeat and mysterious ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’.  Lead Belly’s version was a stripped back affair involving just guitar and a simple vocal.  Schorr opts for a piano-led approach, drenched in reverb to accentuate the macabre atmosphere of the lyric, and with some haunted guitar colourings from Marc Copely and bass undertones from Livingston Brown to round out the sound.
In the end though, this is all about a bravura vocal performance from Schorr, restrained but at
Sari Schorr - not being macabre
Pic by Mat Robinson
the same time full of subtle variations.  Often the primary mode of her operatically-trained voice seems to be full force typhoon, but here Schorr demonstrates the variety and control she can bring to bear in a more understated setting.
Dion – ‘I Got To Get To You’
Something old, something new.  Which is to say that ‘I Got To Get To You’ may be Dion DiMucci’s new single, but it hasn’t just popped out of his head recently.  In fact he released it before back in 1989 – and a very 80s recording it was too, sounding like it was a contender for the soundtrack of Top Gun, or some such.
The 2021 version is different, and better – an altogether zippier reading that sounds like it’s just been laid down by Chuck Berry on a good day.  Boz Scaggs contributes some guest vocals – apparently a big deal for Dion even if I can only hear some sterling vocal support rather than anything transformative.
There are, however, some funky little rock’n’roll guitar breaks from the father-and-son guest pairing of Mike and Joe Menza to spice things up, including one particular yodel-like outing from dad Mike that ups the fun quotient – and Dion himself, still in fine vocal fettle, sounds like he’s having a good time.
It may not be knock-you-down original, but ‘I Got To Get To You’ still bodes well for the new Dion album coming later in the year.
Elles Bailey – Cheats & Liars
‘Cheats & Liars’ opens with a muscular rhythm as the foundation for its Americana sound, and for an acid lyric about political deceit.  As Bailey explains, “It's about the people in their ivory towers who told us arts don't really matter, and to go and retrain.
The song builds to a rousing chorus swollen by some immaculate vocal harmonies which I imagine are all Elles’ own work.  There’s some swooning slide guitar work too, which I guess is the work of her regular six-string sidekick Joe Wilkins, and which I’d have liked to hear a bit more of.
Gotta say though, as well-assembled as the song is, it seems to me that on the verses our Elles has been down a road kinda like this before, with a vibe that sounds familiar from earlier songs such as ‘Wild
Davy Knowles - rolling with it
Pic by Timothy Schmidt
Wild West’ and ‘Medicine Man’.  ‘Cheats & Liars’ is the first single from her third album, Shining In The Half Light, slated to come out next year, and I look forward to the album exploring some different angles.
Davy Knowles – ‘Roll Me’
This slow and soulful blues penned by producer Eric Corne has something of a Joe Cocker feel, though leaning on deeply twanging guitar and a sensitive vocal from Chicago-based Manxman Davy Knowles rather than Cocker’s gut-wrenching style.
‘Roll Me’ is a tasteful trailer for Knowles’ upcoming album What Happens Next.  There are, truth be told, one or two rather corny lyrical lapses – “sure as the church bells do chime”, anyone? – but there’s still plenty to like, as it’s embellished by some delicate organ playing from a party currently unidentified, in addition to Knowles’ on-point delivery.
What Happens Next
 is released by Provogue Records on 22 October, and can be pre-ordered here.

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