With a swish of her glossy-rum hair she comes to the small stage in London, a perfect picture of smudge and glamour, and all-at-once she’s fiery, seraphic and spicy, with a voice like blackberry brandy combined with a tub of oil-tar creosote and equipped with a smile that illuminates the room like a million-watt light bulb.
SARI SCHORR is one of the best contemporary blues-rock singers in the world. And she’s at her best when we see her, on her final show of a mammoth seven-week European tour-run: on a Monday night at the London Water Rats (where Bob Dylan played his first UK gig.) Here she demonstrates what we have said all along: her songs are full of tension and traction and her dynamic presence is a mixture of controlled burning and ever-growing passion
The New York singer and songwriter was “discovered” by the British blues-scene producer Mike Vernon (Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green) after he saw her performance in 2015. So impressed was he, that he offered to come out of semi-retirement to produce her 2016 album. She delivered “A Force of Nature” made with her “Engine Room” and with contributions from some very high-powered Vernon friends that included Innes Sibun, Walter Trout and Oli Brown. We described her follow-up 2018 album “Never Say Never” as: “aromatic, smoky, potent & memorable…”
Beginning the show with the gutsy ripper “The New Revolution” a song about standing up for truth and being inspired by justice, this provided a powerful punch that got the gig-goers satisfied right away. “Damn the Reason” from the Force of Nature album came with mature and twinkling guitar notes from the band’s star guitarist Ash Wilson and some stained organ notes from the notable keyboardist Stevie Watts. Sari delivered a firm and powerful vocal full of persistent whisky-fire.
“I cut my hair so I could see you better,” she tells the London crowd. “But it means I feel kinda self-conscious…” Then the crowd is whipped into a frenzy with “Demolition Man” that proved to be a steady-paced thumper and demonstrated the fact that she may be young — and perhaps even tender, with her shorter bangs — but Sari has the heart & attitude of an old-time blues-slammer. Yeah, she brings expression & honesty. But the passion remains within the shake of that sugarcane and cocoa-liquor trembleuse.
“Ain’t Got No Money” had a firestorm of acutely angled, pin-sharp guitars that contrasted well with Sari’s dusky ‘n’ low pitch voice. The clickkety-clack asphalt rhythms on this number rubbed along the track like rusty open wagons on an old bullhead rail. This number came superbly welded by Sari’s brilliant team of musicians, and, like all good blues songs, it was full of stress and liberation.
The final song of a memorable show was the generously smoky Lead Belly classic “Black Betty” (made famous by Ram Jam in 1977.) Her interpretation is not the cheerful pop-lite bump you might think you know, but rather it brings anguish, regret and redemption. It is easy to forget that the song is probably about the abuse inflicted on an innocent servant. Therefore, the Sari Schorr version is as intense as it is faithful.
If you are looking for a modern day soul & blues heroine who has Tina Turner’s fiery skill, energy and sensuality combined with Carly Simon’s successful song-writing and wild sweetness, you’ve come to the right place. Sari Schorr is the real damn deal.
If you missed her shows, don’t worry… she promises to be back in Europe during 2020.
Words& Pictures: @neilmach 2019 ©