Monday, October 10, 2016

Sari Schorr – A Force of Nature | Album Review

Sari Schorr – A Force of Nature

Manhaton Records

12 tracks / 57:00

Sari Schorr is an amazing blues singer from Brooklyn, and I am not the only one who thinks that she has tremendous potential. In fact, legendary producer Mike Vernon (Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall) put his retirement on hold to oversee the construction of her debut album, A Force of Nature. This is not an overnight success story as Sari has been working for years, touring the US and Europe with esteemed artists such as Joe Louis Walker and Popa Chubby, and she was recently inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame.

A Force of Nature was cut in Seville, Spain and London, England, and a cadre of top-shelf musicians were called on to back up Sari. The core band is made up of Innes Sibun and Quique Bonal on guitar, Jose Mena on drums, Nani Conde on bass, and Julian Maeso behind the keyboards. The list of guest artists is equally impressive, with contributions from Walter Trout and Oli Brown on guitar, as well as the keyboards of John Baggot, Jesús Lavilla, and Dave Keyes.

There are a dozen tracks on this album, and Sari collaborated on the writing of nine of them. First up is “Ain’t Got No Money,” a guitar-heavy blues rocker that kicks off with a slick intro from Sibun. He is a heck of a blues guitarist, but even that is overshadowed when Schorr starts to sing, as her voice is powerful with a more than respectable range and an abundance of emotion. This is backed up by “Aunt Hazel,” a rock song where Sari gets to cut loose and bemoan the results of substance abuse, accompanied by the rock-solid backline of Mena and Conde. This is one of my favorite original tracks from the album, as all of the parts fit together with precision without losing the feeling of spontaneity.

Walter Trout joined in with his guitar to help cover one of his own tunes, “Work No More.” Trout recommended this song, and it is a personal message for a friend he knew who had passed away. The respectful words are an honest eulogy for a wonderful woman, and Sari does a fabulous job of delivering them with emotion. Trout wails throughout this rocking track, with a little help from Baggott on the organ and Keyes on the piano.

The other two covers are really cool too! Schorr takes a legitimate run at Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter’s “Black Betty,” and delivers the goods. This track is not a fast-paced rocker like the Ram Jam or Spiderbait versions, instead starting with a bare-bones acoustic guitar accompaniment, which transforms into a powerful piece of grinding blues-rock featuring organ from John Baggott. The final cover is on the other end of the spectrum, and Sari’s soulful and bluesy interpretation of The Supreme’s 1965 Motown hit, “Stop! In the Name of Love” is like no other version you have ever heard. Rietta Austin does a lovely job with the backing vocals on this track – you can't do this song without harmonies!

As you would expect from Vernon, the production values are first-rate, and this is a very well recoded and mixed project. The balance of the instruments and vocals is perfect, and the songs are sequenced so that the listener does not ever become weary of the content. For once, I have no complaints at all!

A Force of Nature is a stellar debut from Sari Schorr, and she certainly has plans for the future. Tour dates are scheduled throughout the US and Europe, Mike Vernon has agreed to work on Schorr’s next two albums (maybe he is just semi-retired), and she is writing new material with Innes. With Sari’s talent and Mike’s experience, her future is bright indeed!

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