SARAH Jane Morris may be fast approaching her 60th birthday, but her creative juices are very much in overdrive. A musician on a mission. A songstress and performer in the prime of her life.
In May, she will release her latest album (Sweet Little Mystery) at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, on London’s Southbank – based around the music of the late great John Martyn. Judging by the hors d’oeuvre (a five track Martyn EP) she has already put on the table, Sweet Little Mystery is going to be warmly received. It is Martyn with an almighty twist (or three) of Morris lemon – her unique interpretations of some of his famous and lesser known songs.
For those fortunate enough to be present at the splendidly unique 606 Club on London’s Lots Road on Sunday night (March 10), Morris performed most of the music that will be on the new album. Songs beautifully embellished by Morris’s astonishing vocal range and the astute musicianship of two of her most trusted anchors – guitarists Tony Remy (on stage and musically, her left and right hand man) and Tim Cansfield (cool as a seedless cucumber).
Despite suffering from flu that had laid her low for two days, Morris was on masterly form as she rattled out her versions of Martyn’s songs – the folksy Fairy Tale Lullaby, Head and Heart (one of her favourite Martyn songs) and the beautifully tender Couldn’t Love You More, embellished by Morris’s wonderfully deep voice (deeper than the Mponeng Gold Mine).
There was more – the rather frenetic, frantic and sinister Call Me, a superb version of Over The Hill, the iconic and powerful Solid Air (a frequent choice of celebrities on Desert Island Discs and again enhanced by Morris’s wonderful voice), One World and May You Never – which Morris had recently sung in Glasgow with Eddi Reader (ex Fairground Attraction). Morris’s Martyn collection was completed with versions of Sweet Little Mystery and the quite brilliant and rousing I Don’t Wanna Know About Evil.
The tasty Martyn sandwich filling was contained within juicy gluten-free hunks of Morris’s musical bread – Feel The Love (taken from her 2014 album Bloody Rain) and a marvellous interpretation of John Lennon’s Imagine which she ends with the words: ‘Peace in my name, love in my name, just imagine it’ (Morris is a passionate human rights campaigner).
An enthralling version of Janis Joplin’s Piece Of My Heart was rapturously received as was On My Way to You (an ode to her husband Mark whom she met and then married at the 606 Club in a humanist wedding seven years ago). The piece de resistance was provided by a version of Dylan’s I Shall Be Released (Morris’s father spent time in prison at the same time as the Birmingham Six when she was just 17).
Morris has lived a fascinating and varied life. As a youngster she fought her corner against six brothers (at times, given the constant scrapes she didn’t think she would be a woman until she grew breasts).
As a musician she found fame with the Communards (Jimmy Somerville et al), enjoyed and at times endured 25 years of marriage to one of the Pogues (David Coulter) and in later life has made some mighty fine music with the likes of Remy and Antonio Forcione.
Yet all this – the ups and downs – has made her the fine musician she is today. John Martyn is just the latest addition to the mighty fine Morris bow. More, no doubt, to come. No, so much more to come.