This was a doubleheader on the penultimate night of London Blues week, featuring two notable Ladies of the Blues – Sharrie Williams and Sari Schorr.
Sharrie Williams was on Stage first with her Guitarist Lars Kutshcke, and borrowing heavily from Sari Schorr’s band for Bass (Matt Beable), Drums (Roy Martin) and keys (Bob Fridzema), and with talent like that on hand, why wouldn’t you? The wonderfully charismatic Ms Williams had the crowd, still a little thin at that time of night, very quickly in the palm of her hand. Opening with “Hard Drivin’ Woman” Sharrie set her stall from the beginning. As the opening line of the song states, I’m a hard-drivin’ woman…….and I’m Here to Rock your world” and Sharrie certainly did that. Teasing the band, teasing the crowd are all part of the show and soon feet were shuffling and bodies swaying as this lady’s magic started its infectious spread.
From Drivin’ hard, Sharrie promised “I’ll Take you there”, a gospel-inspired number putting a smile on everyone’s face. Sharrie, born into a Gospel family in Saginaw, Michigan continued with the rocking Gospel theme on the bluesy “Crazy for You” and “Out of the Dark”, the latter demonstrating the mellow tone and timbre of Sharrie’s vocal. After“Lover by Trade” Sharrie performed a fine rendition of “World is in Trouble”. Originally released as a reggae song but given a gospel feel that really held the audience. Set Closer “Travellin” lifted the mood again with swirling Hammond and primal drum beats underpinning the whole song. Sharrie Williams was last on these shore in 2009. I really do hope her return visit is a lot sooner.
New York Blues Rocker Sari Schorr took to the stage at London’s 100 Club during London Blues Week as part of her “Never Say Never” tour. Sari’s second studio album “Never say Never” was released in October 2018 to critical acclaim and she and the band have been touring extensively since then. In fact, it is fair to say that this lady never seems to stop touring with numerous dates throughout 2018, across the UK and Europe, and many more in 2019.
The Band, Ash Wilson on Guitar, Matt Beable on Bass, Roy Martin behind the Kit and Bob Fridzema playing keys, took to the stage first, playing a low-down blues groove that shifted into the rockier intro to “The New Revolution” from the new album as Sari walked on to rapturous applause from the audience.
The combined effect of Bob Fridzema’s Hammond and Ash Wilson’s guitar set the tone nicely with Matt’s Bass and Roy’s drums holding everything nice and tight, before they changed down a gear for the slower, More bluesy “Damn the Reason”. This song has Sari wringing the emotion out of very word and phrase, not only vocally but also in her projection. Sari had the audience transfixed and it is a shame that the sound balance was off and her dynamic and rich vocal was a little lost behind the mix.
A quick chat with the crowd followed where Sari questioned the futility of New Year’s resolutions with the advice to” Just do more of the stuff we enjoy doing in 2019”. The rock theme continued with “King of Rock and Roll” and “Thank You” before the band switched to the blues vibe of “Demolition Man” which showed more of the versatility of Sari’s powerful voice and the sheer expressiveness. When Sari sings, you feel it deep down in your soul. “Ain’t got no Money” from “A Force of Nature” followed, before another new track, “Ready for Love”. This is a slow-burner of a song – heartbreak, pain, healing – all expressed beautifully by Sari and the boys.
The Etta James classic “I Just Want to make Love to you” was given the Sari Schorr Band treatment and turned into a classic blues rocker with a blistering solo from Ash Wilson., before the band gave a similar treatment to the Holland, Dozier, Holland penned “Kiss Me”.
The next couple of songs had Ash Wilson switching to acoustic guitar for the mellower songs “Never Say Never” and “Turn your Radio on”, the latter aired live for the first time, so there was a little nervousness on stage. In some ways, these songs gave more space for Sari’s vocal to soar and show the sheer range and flexibility of that fantastic voice, with some beautifully husky passages in “Radio”
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After that quieter interlude, it was back to business as usual, the band kicking into the out and out rockers “Valentina” and “Freedom” to close out the set. Of course, if you are going to finish on a high like that, it is only natural that the crowd are going to want more, and after some persuasion, the band came on for the encore. Sari Schorr has turned the Lead Belly classic “Black Betty” into her signature song and it is only proper that her stripped back, torn down and laid bare version appears here. The emotion is palpable as Sari’s voice goes from Growl to Howl and all stops between, inducing goose bumps and shivers in equal measure, conveying the sheer menace and anguish of this song. As a finale, they don’t come much better than “Aunt Hazel”. From the opening cowbell to the final flourish, the band get fully behind this number to send the fans on their way home.
Sharrie Williams Set List:
Hard Drivin’ Woman
I’ll Take You There
Crazy for You
Out of the Dark
Lover by Trade
World is in Trouble
Sari Schorr Set List:
The New Revolution
Damn the Reason
King of Rock and Roll
Ain’t got no Money
Ready for Love
I Just Wanna Make Love
Never say Never
Turn the Radio On