The golden age for blues gets slightly more golden
In amongst all the wonderful self-penned stuff here, on her debut record Sari Schoor chooses a couple of classics to cover. One of these “Stop! In The Name Of Love” is a song about a woman who knows her man is having an affair and is begging him to return. On it Schoor – who is a trained opera singer and has the most incredible voice you can possibly imagine – does a magnificent job, but the thought remains that so strong does she sound throughout she wouldn’t stand for this in real life and – at the risk of sounding all Jerry Springer – would just kick his ass to the kerb.
You see, there’s something empowering about Sari Schoor. On the other cover here – a stunning new arrangement of Leadbelly’s “Black Betty” she manages to bring out a vulnerability, whilst simultaneously making Betty sound resolutely defiant and that’s her skill. Her voice can do whatever she wants it to and can coax things out of songs that other people – let’s call them mere mortals – wouldn’t, or to be more accurate, probably couldn’t.
Everybody here knows this is incredible. Producer Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac, Clapton, Bowie et al) came out of semi-retirement to twiddle the knobs after seeing Sari sing live, and Oli Brown and Walter Trout are amongst the guests – the latter contributing the superb “Work No More” as well as playing guitar as only he can on it – and the quality of the record frequently touches jaw-dropping.
This is pretty evident from the kick off of the classy “Ain’t Got No Money” which takes the greedy bankers to task, while the funky “Aunt Hazel” (slang for heroin, apparently) is one of the best songs here but then so is the emotionally charged and dark “Damn The Reason” (picking an actual best is impossible as it changes with every listen).
“Cat And Mouse” is another that drips with sass and groove – and in common with most of them is a story with great personal significance to Schoor – like “Demolition Man”, which depending on how you look at it, is either a song with some brilliant Hammond Organ from Julian Maeso or a song of empowerment for sex workers. According to the woman who wrote it, its both.
The gorgeous, light and airy “Oklahoma” takes us off down another avenue altogether, “Letting Go” deals with loss in a most sympathetic way, while “Kiss Me” is straight out of the Eric Clapton playbook and the beautiful “Ordinary Life” – the song that ends this collection – sees things stripped back to mostly just Schoor and a piano, while the character in the song opines “I’ve made my peace with loneliness/ never been nobody’s wife/ I’m grateful for this ordinary life.”
If people still bought singles it would be number one everywhere, but instead Sari Schoor And The Engine Room will have to content themselves with the thought they have just made one of the blues records of the year. Indeed, never has an album been better named.