Chance may well have brought Sari Schorr to the attention of esteemed – not to say legendary – producer Mike Vernon, but what they and their happy band of cohorts have managed to create with Schorr’s damn near eponymously named debut album, A Force of Nature, is nothing short of perfection.
This is an album that quite honestly is as close to faultless as one could wish. That Schorr’s voice has been likened to holding elements attributed to both Janis Joplin and Tina Turner is understandable. Don’t be fooled though because, as unique as those two undoubtedly are, Sari’s is every bit as unquantifiably rich, melodic, engaging, powerful, mesmerising and – above all – harmonious, so that once the album is finished the listener is searching for the ‘Replay’ button almost immediately.
Ain’t No Money may well be a gentle, soul baked opener but the harsh realities of drug addiction featured in the next track Aunt Hazel certainly rack things up more than a notch or six, with Innes Sibun’s exquisite guitar work slicing out the riffs like a buzz saw through candy floss.
The single Kiss Me is a journey back in time, a nod of acknowledgement almost, to those days when psychedelic infused rock ruled, though again this is no stereotypical jaunt. Instead what Schorr has delivered is a rock solid number that will undoubtedly take on another life in the live arena, with her scorching vocals burning across all that lies before her.
That there is such a variance in themes and styles also provides a more than refreshing listen. To carry this off, though, the lyrics have to substantiate the tales they tell and Schorr’s delicate yet nevertheless emotive and devastatingly forceful touch is a joy.
Take a listen to Cat and Mouse (“I’ve been around the world searching for myself / one step behind my own defence”) and marvel at the deep rooted and passionate poetry she is capable of creating, stop and find yourself spontaneously applauding. This is an album that is in no way self-aggrandising but is rather one that seeks to share the artist’s journey to this point, good and ill, so that she lays her soul bare with a frank honesty that shines.
Then there is the fact that Sari Schorr is clearly not averse to taking risks. One of the most recognisable tunes that should arguably never, ever be covered is Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s Black Betty, yet this stripped back, pain-infused piece of musical magnificence takes on a whole new lease of life and comes out the other side reborn and rejuvenated in ways otherwise unimaginable.
The same is true of her cover of The Supremes classic Stop in the Name of Love, which here has been dipped in layered vocal chocolate enriched by the addition of Rietta Austin, sprinkled liberally with some sparking harmonious sugar and set out to dry in the gentle warmth of the superb bass playing of Nani Conde and the drums of Jose Mena. Oh and the requisite cherry that sits atop of this melodious tour de force is, again, the delicate contributions made by Innes Sibun.
Stand out tracks are quite literally One-through-to-Eleven, but Oli Brown’s influence on Damn the Reason and Walter Trout’s cool blues and laid back lyricism that defines what it is to have lost a dear friend on Work No More, mark them both out.
However, that the album ends on an intensely slow, highly emotional Ordinary Life – a song so beautifully poised it could easily be sung by Bette Midler or Barbra Streisand at their peak – only serves to remind the listener that although Sari Schorr may see her own life as being ordinary, her talents are far from that.
A Force of Nature is exactly that. An extraordinary album made all the more so by the fact that it is a debut and it can only be hoped that fate once again lends a hand so that Mike Vernon can help cut more 24 carat diamonds like this one.
01. Ain’t Got No Money
02. Aunt Hazel
03. Damn The Reason
04. Cat And Mouse
05. Black Betty
06. Work No More
07. Demolition Man
09. Letting Go
10. Kiss Me
11. Stop! In The Name Of Love
12. Ordinary Life
SARI SCHORR AND THE ENGINE ROOM
2016 UK AND EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
BOOK TICKETS VIA BANDS IN TOWN:
July 1 Ruta 66 Sevilla, Spain (Sari & Innes only)
July 2 Fuengirola Malaga, Spain (Sari & Innes only)
July 14 Guitare en Scene France
July 18 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, Scotland
August 4-5 Notodden Blues Festival Norway
August 26 Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Altwood Rd, Maidenhead, UK
August 27 Varenwinkel Festival, Herselt, Belgium
August 28 Seacroft Double Festival, Norfolk, UK
August 29 Great British RnB Festival, Colne, Lancashire, UK
August 28 Seacroft Double Festival, Norfolk
Sept 9 Darlington RnB Club, The Forum Music Centre, Darlington, UK
Sept 5 Half Moon Putney, London, UK (Album Launch)
Sept 10 Blues Club, Devizes, Wiltshire, UK
Sept 11 Winchester Discovery Centre, Winchester, UK
Sept 14 The Tunnels, Bristol, UK
Sept 15 Southern Pavilion, Worthing Pier, West Sussex, UK
Sept 16 New Crawdaddy, Billericay Town FC Billericay, UK
Sept 17 Old Town Hall, High Street, Hemel Hempstead, UK
Sept 23 Selby Town Hall Yorkshire, UK
Sept 24 The Iron Road, Evesham, Worcestershire, UK
Sept 25 Hope Tavern, Caistor Rd, Holton-le-Moor, Market Rasen, Lincs, UK
Sept 28 Vonnies Blues Club, Cheltenham
Sept 29 Cranleigh Arts Centre, High Street, Cranleigh, Surrey
Sept 30 B.A.R Festival, France
October 1 Hereford Blues Club, Booth Hall, Hereford, UK
October 6 Bar Brunel Bridgewater, UK
October 7 Deux Rivieres Blues Festival, Brittany, France