Reviews roundup – Sari Schorr vs. Ana Silvera vs. Noctulux vs. Plastic Tears vs. Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage vs. John Clifton
Never Say Never
I enjoyed “A Force Of Nature”, the debut album by Sari Schorr. It certainly announced her fabulous voice to the world, although it never tipped over from good to great. But second time around she’s done a whole lot better.
And that’s due to the songs which really are a great leap forward. Bar a couple of covers, they’re all new tunes and with a couple of exceptions make for a cracking listen. Recorded in deepest Norfolk and with a studio band that includes Ash Wilson on guitar and ex King King keyboard man Bob Fridzema, it has the sound of musicians totally in sync with each other.
It’s bluesy without ever being blues and soulful without ever being soul. There are even couple of tunes that some Radio 2 / Later… outings would see her reaching out to a large mainstream audience. And that would be wholly justified as ‘Thank You’, ‘Valentina’ and the big ballad ‘Beautiful’ are songs that deserve to be heard by a helluva lot of people. If you do like a little bit of rock then ‘Thank You’ will make you very happy while her take on the Bad Company number ‘Ready For Love’ is a real treat. A couple of tunes don’t hit the mark for me but this is a real statement of intent even if I do have to end things before the closing title track, a Bump Band song that brought me close to tears long before my own wife died.
This deserves to be the record that makes Ms Schorr a name to be reckoned with.
This is being punted as an alt-folk album but it’s an awfy lot weirder than that.
In a good way. It’s actually more prog like than anything else, with hints of folk, classical and psychedelia thrown in for good measure.
‘Tears of Oak, Fist of Willow’ kicks thing off and over a meandering yet never boring eight minutes it traverses a lot of places, all of them interesting. It’s definitely the highlight of the record although the voice of Ms Silvera always keeps you hooked in no matter where she heads to.
The instrumentation sets off the fragile songs to great effect and even though it’s not the kind of record that ever gets out of second gear, once you hear a song as affecting as ‘Pearls And Thieves’ you’ll be reaching for the repeat button. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t really belong in the streaming world as its strength lies in its entirety as a piece of work. Sit yourself down in the dark, pop on your headphones and lose yourself in its low key beauty.
From The Shadows
Off to Holland now for some female fronted melodic rock. And they’re pretty good.
Originally put together as a vehicle for the songs of singer Mirjam van der Wel they’ve been going in various forms since 2015 but this is their debut release.
It’s mainly in the classic melodic rock idiom with a few heavier riffs hither and thither as well as a couple of diversions into the world of soft rock and even eighties synth pop. For sure, not every song is out of the top drawer but there is definitely a lot of potential here. The vocals are a highlight, as you would expect from the band founder, and Ms van der Wel has a way of projecting her delicate framed vocals in fine fashion. Some of the instrumentation isn’t balanced but it’s an indie debut so it’s easy to forgive and just enjoy the strongest of the songs.
That would include ‘Goodbye’, ‘Close My Eyes’ and ‘Break Me Down’, all songs which stuck in my head for a good while. Given some professional input there is no reason why we shouldn’t hear more from Noctulux.
Angels With Attitude
City Of Lights
Go on. Have a guess. Look at the cover and tell me what you think Plastic Tears sound like. Need a clue? They’re from Finland.
That’s right! They’re a sleaze / glam rock band. Although they prefer the term “street rock”. Although if you walked about the streets looking like that where I come from you’re asking for a kicking. Just ask my old mate Kaz.
They first got together back in 1992 and they’ve managed a whole three albums since then, including this new one. However, in the finest tradition of LA sleaze they’ve broken up several times and worked their way through a sizeable amount of members. But if you’re the kind of person who has fond members of Razzle, Stiv Bators and Johnny Thunders then you’ll find yourself at home here.
Being Finnish they also have the legally obligatory Hanoi Rocks influence and if, like me, you grew up with the likes of the London Queerboys then this will be a rerr auld jaunt doon memory lane. Granted, the production is a bit tinny, but they have enough enjoyable songs to make this worth a listen. Try streaming ‘Secret Society’ and ‘Nuclear Nights’ if you want to hear what prime Plastic Tears is all about. A fun record for auld tarts like me.
HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE
I don’t like hares. They’re scary, evil and up to no good. You’ve been warned.
So Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage had better be good to get me over the trauma. Luckily they are. There’s a lot of rubbishy modern folk out there but this is definitely one of the good ones. A couple of years on from their debut as a duo they’ve improved as writers and interpreters. Of course I say duo but they’re augmented on record with double bassist Jon Thorne (Scott Matthews), vocals from Jess Morgan and Gilmore & Roberts, percussion from Evan Carson (The Willows, Sam Kelly), pedal steel from Burke Carroll (Kathleen Edwards and Chris Coole on banjo so there is a lot of ine backing on offer.
I actually prefer their own material which seems to highlight the delightful vocals of Ms Sanders particularly well. The opening one-two of ‘Selkie Song’ and ‘I Met A Man’ is as good a start to a folk album as you’re likely to hear this year. The nadir, as you would expect, is the Billy Bragg song ‘Mermaid Avenue’. The Emperors New Clothes. Again.
Regardless, the original songs show that they’re a talent to be reckoned with and this is one that folkies of all generations should be able to agree upon.
Back to the blues with John Clifton, a well seasoned performer from over there in the American colonies.
It’s on Rip Cat who don’t do rubbish so I was looking forward to this. And it delivered. It’s a set split between covers and originals and even if a couple of the new songs don’t quite hit the mark, the reinterpretations hit the bullseye every time. It’s a fine blend of old school blues, sixties soul and even rock’n’roll which works most of the way through thanks to a full on, enthusiastic band.
Kicking of with a wham! bam! ‘Strange Land’, ‘Sad About It’ and ‘Last Clean Shirt’ taking in Charlie Musselwhite, Lee Moses and a Lieber / Stoller / Otis tune I first heard courtesy of the Animals, it’s a full on humdinger. Mr Clifton has a strong voice which works best when he has something to howl about.
The best of the self penned songs is ‘Brand New Way to Walk’ which is a much rock’n’roll as anything else and is a fine showcase for the always excellent guitar work of Scott Abeyta. I can’t claim to be a fan of the nine minute closer ‘Every Now And Then’ but that aside, this is a really enjoyable set from start to (almost) finish).
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton