On September 1st the unique British soul and jazz singer-songwriter Sarah Jane Morris returns with ‘Jazz Side of the Road’, the first single taken from her forthcoming new album – ‘The Sisterhood’ out on International Women’s Day – March 8 2024.
A representation of Sarah Jane’s roots, inspirations, and indefatigable love of contemporary music-making and its iconic pioneers ‘The Sisterhood’ celebrates ten female stars who dominated the singing and song writing of the 20th century – Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Annie Lennox, and Kate Bush.
‘Jazz Side of the Road’ is Sarah Jane’s song for Rickie Lee Jones – a beautiful, soulful tribute exquisitely capturing the fragile perceptiveness and old-soul wisdom of the two-time Grammy Award winner, of whom Sarah Jane has been a long-time fan.
“Her grandfather was a one-legged tap dancer in vaudeville. You couldn’t make that up” says Sarah Jane. “She went out for a year with Tom Waits. Dr John got her hooked on heroin. She was influenced by Van Morrison and she was hitching her way round America aged 12. It’s all in this song and musically written with my right-hand man Tony Remy in her genre.”
“She’s always been a troubadour poet, the teller of the woman’s tale. Her live performances are spellbinding – she makes you laugh. She makes you fall in love with her. Her survival to this day and her artistic triumph are miracles of latter-day Americana. This song celebrates those miracles; it is also an elegy to those heady dreams of the sixties, when peace and freedom were demanded, and youth seemed to point the way.”
‘The Sisterhood’ is Sarah Jane’s ‘lock-down project’, as she and her husband Mark worked on the lyrical structures through months of isolation. As the repertoire came together, Sarah Jane and Tony Rémy, her co-writer/co-producer of the project, became convinced that the grooves and moods of the songs needed to sound contemporary yet reflective of the styles that had guided the ears and choices of the original artists in their own times. How successfully they realized the elusive ambition of a contemporary set that remains rooted in the legacies of the artists it celebrates, is evident all over this remarkable album.
Sarah Jane Morris has been one of Britain’s great song interpreters since first finding fame in the 80s with bands like The Republic, Happy End and The Communards, singing on their chart-topping hit ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way.’ Since then she’s released 15 solo albums winning acclaim for her octave-vaulting contralto range which stretches from sonorous, reverberating low tones to a searingly soulful falsetto. Adding to her sweeping vocal palette she has developed an original lyricist’s expressiveness fueled by a profound grasp of popular musical history. Stirred into that is an unflinching personal-political drive that has made social and sexual liberation and human rights issues the lifeblood of many of her songs.
Over the past decade, those elements have coalesced in increasingly evocative ways – on landmark Morris projects including 2014’s Africa-dedicated Bloody Rain, 2016’s joyfully conversational Compared to What with guitarist Antonio Forcione, and the delicate and beautifully arranged Sweet Little Mystery, a haunting valediction for Scottish avant-folk genius John Martyn, forged again with Tony Rémy.
‘The Sisterhood’ is a labour of love – a hard-won new triumph in an already prolific life at the cutting edge of contemporary music-making. Sarah Jane has stepped up to another creative level to create a richly referential, highly complex and strikingly original collection, clarifying the story of women in popular song. “It’s the best project I’ve ever been part of” says Sarah Jane with the passionate felicity of the true artist to the latest incarnation of her creativity. She describes her conviction simply: “It’s the passing of the torch from sister to sister”.