Sari Schorr & The Engine Room release their debut album 'A Force of Nature' in the UK and Europe on Friday 2nd September. Sari delivers hard-driving Blues-Rock, influenced by the late '60's British Blues movement and mixes Blues, Rock and Soul with concrete melodies and poetic lyrics to striking effect. The album is produced by the legendary Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Blues Breakers and David Bowie) and features Walter Trout, Innes Sibun and Oli Brown.
A Force Of Nature' blasts off with a Gary Moore reminiscent opening salvo from Engine Room guitarist Innes Sibun on 'Ain't Got Not Money' - New Yorker Schorr's protest against the greed of Wall Street neatly summed up with the line "Ain't got no money, but you ain't got no sense (cents)." Immediately the force awakens on this opener given both Sari's powerful earthy vocal complemented by Sibun's gutsy guitar work. Must admit that when I originally witnessed 'Aunt Hazel' at her Showcase gig at The Surya last year, I thought it was a bit clunky. Based on urban slang for heroin (Schorr doesn't pull her punches when songwriting) - I now take it all back. Again both Sari and Innes let you have it with both barrels - with a chorus of "Aunt Hazel's laughing as my words get slurred" - they up the ante on this rocker.
Time for a guitar intro from guest Oli Brown on 'Damn The Reason' - with no let up in Schorr's vocal nor subject matter - this time based on domestic violence. The contradiction is that it's beautifully crafted with Julian Maeso's keyboards, the introduction of backing vocals plus a trademark Brown guitar solo. The opening groovy rhythm guitar of Quique Bonal on 'Cat And Mouse' belies its underlying message of past emotional abuse in the music industry. "I ain't ready for a steady rollin' Tom and Jerry life!" - the moral of this story being that once the shackles are off you can write great groovy music like this with both Sibun and Maeso excelling. The first cover on the album is Lead Belly's classic 'Black Betty' - it's unique arrangement and in particular it's cajun guitar opening - lean heavily methinks on the influence of Sibun's time with Robert Plant in 1993. About slavery and rape - Sari originally performed this at Lead Belly Fest at Carnegie Hall - Ram Jam it certainly ain't - but it's powerful production, Innes' guitar and Sari's undeniable enthusiasm and attitude deliver a classic from within a classic.
Step forward Walter Trout on 'Work No More' - WT's own contribution to Sari following Lead Belly Fest - and indeed a personal favourite with the late great Johnny Winter no less. An explosive opening guitar solo from Walter eases in Sari's amazing vocals - Sari paying fine tribute to Trout's late friend who the song is based on - with Walter duly throwing in some amazing guitar for good measure - not forgetting also organist John Baggott. Another memory from The Surya Showcase was Sibun's slide work and organ (this time by Maeso) on 'Demolition Man' - again forcefully sung and written by Schorr in support of Amnesty International's resolution to decriminalise sex work. The mellower "Oklohoma' tells Sari's last minute change of plan that ends up with her gigging with Joe Louis Walker in .... Oklohoma. Another groovy number - that builds into one mean fusional outro featuring backing vocals, the keys of Maeso, another Oil Brown guitar solo plus Schorr's excellent lyrical diction - a nail on for a live jam extension.
Vernon's production on 'Letting Go' has a 'Winehouse' feel to it - co-written by both Schorr and Bonal - it was written for and dedicated to Quique's late wife Natalie. With its big finish - another Sibun solo is vindication as to why Mike hand-picked Innes for the Engine Room backbone - their paths originally crossing when Vernon produced Sibun's 'Blues Explosion' album in the early '90's. The stand-out on the album, however, harps back to Sari's love of 60's Psychedelic Rock. The melody and harmonics of 'Kiss Me' must have been a joy for Vernon to produce which sees Oli Brown revelling in a riff/chorus/solo that rocks out big time - Schorr even managing to include a line about her beloved Pit Bulls - although the song is about being in love with someone who is gone.
Sari's second cover on the album was The Supremes - 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' - Jose Mena's drum roll introducing Schorr's take on this classic. With Rietta Austin chipping in with Sari on backing vocals - Schorr and Sibun inevitably put their own big rubber stamp on this version - nailing it at the same time! Ironically, it's left to the last track of the album to measure Schorr's versality. With her roots originally in Jazz - and perhaps sometimes overpowering vocals (she was once compared to a hybrid between Tina Turner and Janis Joplin) - she's had to learn to hold back to get the guts of the Blues. Well 'AFON' has well and truly confirmed that - although Jesus Lavillas beautiful keyboard intro to 'Ordinary Life' takes Sari into another dimension. There's certainly nothing ordinary about this ballad - the crystal clarity of Schorr's vocals all for everyone to see and hear. A beautiful end to an awesome album. Just make sure you catch Sari & The Engine Room at their album launch at The Half Moon, Putney on Monday 5th September. May the force be with you!