2016’s A Force of Nature from Sari Schorr made an indelible mark on the blues-rock scene. Anyone who enjoyed the bluesier end of the spectrum was talking about Schorr’s music and her voice and not a bad word was to be heard. Never Say Never sees Ms Schorr continue that trend, with a fresh set of songs and a new accompanying band, to remind people why she was noticed so much last time.
Opening track “King of Rock and Roll”, a tribute to Robert Johnson, has Schorr in fine vocal form. Exuding power to tell a story and pay homage to a man who helped shaped the course of the 20th century’s music, she’s immediately telling the listener something else – she’s upping her game. And indeed, throughout the album, Schorr is a storyteller. Drawing on various parts of her own history, she unburdens herself on the listener, examining past relationships and asking one of the most dangerous questions a person can ask “What might have been?”
That may make up the bulk of her lyrics and given the different angles she takes, it never becomes tiresome. However, she isn’t afraid to get political with the snarky “Freedom” questioning the endless mass shootings in America and their Second Amendment. Meanwhile, funky “The New Revolution” asks people not to criticise the differences of people but instead celebrate what unites them as well as questioning who will bring the people together to stamp out inequality in all its forms.
Elsewhere, there’s a couple of covers in the form of Ian McLagan’s “Never Say Never” and Bad Company’s “Ready for Love”. Whilst the former sees Schorr and co take on McLagan’s tribute to his departed wife (which also happened to be the title track of his 2008 album), it’s the Bad Company cover which is the more intriguing of the two. Where the cover of Lead Belly’s “Black Betty” was her own interpretation finding a middle ground between the original and that version, this cover is far more faithful to the original. Paul Rodgers simply isn’t a vocalist to be emulated, it’s one of life’s natural facts, much like death, taxes and Chinese Democracy being an absolute travesty of an album. But Schorr pulls this off in her own way, using her voice well within its own natural limits and with her band dutifully recreating the original, she’s able to mimic the flow and hit the highs and lows with as much passion as the original had.
Schorr pushes her voice from start to finish, covering a broad range of capability from piercing screams to soulful whispers. As she runs the gamut, there’s no question of her control. It’s muscular and fierce but more importantly, Never Say Never is an album full of her delivering her best vocals to date. Meanwhile, her name may be the one leading the album but she’s got an equally fantastic band with her. Full of emotional licks from Ash Wilson, Schorr’s not the only one to show off a broad range of styles and he’s able to work off Bob Fridzema’s Hammond and keyboard work expertly. Fridzema, himself, adds so much depth to the music, serving the songs and at no point do you find yourself asking for a second guitar instead.
Sari Schorr has the makings of an excellent follow-up album to a great debut; Never Say Never is an album for the ages. The new personnel gel well together and whether it’s the rockier numbers like “Valentina” or the tender moments like “Beautiful” or the wistful “Turn the Radio On”, there’s something about this band and their album. This is going to turn heads and as blues acts like King King and Joanne Shaw Taylor shine a spotlight on the magnificence of the genre, there’s another name to add to that list.
Header image by Rob Blackham
Never Say Never is out now