SINGER-SONGWRITER Sarah Jane Morris is like Sirius – the brightest star in the sky. She shines – and shines again. Age fails to dim her. Indeed, she thrives on it, resulting in music that never ceases to thrill and entertain.
On Friday November 18, at the atmospheric Piano Smithfield, situated close to the iconic London Barbican complex – and a stone’s throw from the new Elizabeth Line – Sarah Jane yet again demonstrated why she is a magnificent live performer.
Not just because of her remarkable voice that dives to depths that neither man nor woman has yet to dive to. But a result of an ability to inject an almighty overdose of passion and feeling into her music.
Sarah Jane wears her heart on her sleeve, infusing her music and show with strong social messages – whether it’s about the world’s awful refugee crisis, homelessness on the streets of the UK, the cost of living crisis and the fact (she says) that the UK belongs inside Europe, not outside. She’s certainly not a fan of the current Government, that’s for sure. Passion, a sense of social justice., pulse through her veins. You can’t help but admire her.
Surrounding herself with musicians that are masters at their respective trades – a sublime Tony Remy on guitar, Henry Thomas on bass, Tim Cansfield (guitar) and Martyn Barker (drums) – Sarah Jane’s music is like a fine bottle of wine. It gets better and better.
Her longevity is in part a result of her refusal to stand still. She’s constantly looking to experiment, whether it’s writing music infused with tones of Africa (album Bloody Rain) or putting together a homage to the late great John Martyn (Sweet Little Mystery) who died young (age 60) but made some marvellous music along the way – despite the constant alcoholic and drug binges.
In the making is an album (Sisterhood) that pays tribute to some of the iconic female musicians of all time. The likes of Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. Yes, Sarah Jane Is like a cat on hot bricks – she was off to Naples, early the next day (the Italians love her music).
Her set at Piano Smithfield was infused with a heavy dose of Martyn songs, sprinkled with Sarah Jane magic. Wonderful tales such as Fairy Tale Lullaby, Couldn’t Love You More, Head and Heart, Over The Hill and May You Never – with words that are all underpinned by the vices and virtues that made Martyn’s music so special.
There were also songs taken from the acclaimed Bloody Rain – Feel The Love and Wild Flowers. Yet the best was saved for the end as Sarah Jane ramped everything up with sublime reinterpretations of John Lennon’s Imagine and Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released. The climax was a thumping version of Martyn’s I Don’t Wanna Know ‘Bout Evil. Wow. Bloody wow.
A bonus for those packed into Piano Smithfield (an intimate venue run by James Sayer) was Sarah Jane’s son Otis Coulter performing solo songs at the start of the two sets – and then providing some thrilling harmonies. Otis’s songs drip with emotion and personal pain. He possesses a wonderful voice reminiscent of Anohni (Antony and the Johnsons) and clearly has a bright musical journey ahead of him. All in all, a thrilling night on so many levels. A performer right on top of her game, fine supporting musicians, a sensual venue and for those who so desire a sublime mix of pizza and cocktails (negroni to die for).
As an aside, Sarah Jane Morris is still raising money to fund the production of Sisterhood. For those who would like to donate, visit: Sarahjanemorris.co.uk.