WOKINGHAM Music Club is an understated gem, attracting some of the country’s best live music performers to come and sing at its three venues in and around this thriving Berkshire town.
Next month, soul and blues great Geno Washington will be performing (December 3) while in the New Year Toyah Willcox (It’s A Mystery) will come to the town’s Whitty Theatre to sing and talk a little (maybe a lot) about her 40 year career. And there’s plenty more besides – just check out wokinghammusicclub.co.uk.
On Friday November 26, the talented Sarah Jane Morris (ex Communards) came to the intimate Emmbrook Sports & Social Club (the other venue for Wokingham Music Club is the Royal British Legion Club in nearby Winnersh).
Despite a few technical issues which delayed proceedings by half an hour, it was a night made in heaven as Sarah Jane displayed her extraordinary vocal talents. A baritone voice that is as deep and mind-blowing as the canyons that make up the Grand Canyon National Park in America’s Arizona are visually. Boy can she make you shiver with awe as she delivers the lowest of low notes.
Supported by Tim Cansfield and a cheery Henry Thomas on acoustic and acoustic bass guitar respectively, Sarah Jane showcased the breadth of her work – with songs acknowledging the musical genius of Janis Joplin, John Martyn, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Bill Withers (all sadly no longer with us).
There were also tracks from her marvellous 2014 album Bloody Rain and last year’s Let The Music Play – an album put together with Nerio Poggi’s Papik project and featuring Sarah Jane’s take on some classic pop songs – including Withers’ Lovely Day.
There was something for all. There was the tender interpretation of the heart wrenching lyrics written by John Martyn that underpin magical songs such as Couldn’t Love You More, Head And Heart and Don’t Want To Know (the night’s thrilling finale).
‘If you kissed the sun right out of the sky for me
And if you told me all the lies that I deserve
And if you laid all night in the rain for me
Well, I couldn’t love you more
Just couldn’t love you more
I couldn’t love you more.’
Sarah Jane also put her personal twist on some of Martyn’s songs that highlighted his demons (most triggered by drug abuse). The likes of the paranoid Call Me – ‘Just call me. Where are you? Call me baby. Just call me baby.’ Sarah Jane perfectly highlighted the increasingly frenzied nature of John’s pleas for his ‘baby’ to call him. Then there’s Over The Hill:
‘Can’t get enough of sweet cocaine, get enough of Mary Jane
Going back to where I come from, going rolling back home again
Over the hill
Hey, hey, hey, over the hill. ‘
The hill Martyn refers to is in Hastings where he lived – and Sarah Jane now resides.
Other stand-out tracks were a wonderful interpretation of John Lennon’s Imagine (a drawing of Lennon was on the wall behind Sarah Jane alongside the words from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody: ‘I see a little silhouette of a man.’)
Sarah Jane put her own twist on the song by including her own verses relating to the displacement of people all over the world from (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran through to Syria).
‘Running from hunger and war. No war in my name.’
There were also songs about past and present husbands – ex Pogues and ex husband David Coulter (I Get High) ) and highly regarded artist Mark Pulsford (On My Way To You). A few about love – most notably ‘Can You Feel The Love’ (Bloody Rain) – and songs that have as much meaning now as they did when they were first written (John Martyn’s One World).
While Morris’s voice is worth the ticket price alone, she’s a performer who pours out her heart on stage. She’s passionate about injustice, poverty and inequality amongst other things – and she does not hide her feelings. It makes for a night where you get to know the artist as well as appreciate her fine voice and music.
With new albums on the way featuring Beatles music and ten women songwriters and musicians who have shaped Sarah Jane’s musical journey, there is so much more to come from this exceptional talent.
Thank you Sarah Jane, Wokingham Music Club – and technician Spencer for ensuring the night went ahead despite the delay.