Friday, 18 March 2011

Sarah Blackwood

‘The best things in life are free’

So sang The Beatles in one of their early covers and who would argue with them?  Recently, I posted about the return of ace 90s band, Dubstar but prior to that reunion, singer Sarah Blackwood, at a loose end whilst her then band Client was on hiatus, indulged in a short solo career whilst retaining her identity as ‘Client B’.  In 2008 she played an informal acoustic gig with ex-Dubstar guitarist Chris Wilkie.  A selection of seven songs was subsequently released as a free download entitled ‘Client B – Acoustic At The Club Bar and Dining’ and it is these that I have been playing constantly since I discovered them.

The short set list comprises old Dubstar songs (‘Stars’, ‘Not So Manic Now’ and ‘Elevator Song’), Client songs (‘Drive’, ‘Price Of Love’) and two covers (‘Stop Me’ – The Smiths and ‘True Faith’ – New Order).  The performances are mesmerising.  Chris Wilkie’s acoustic guitar picking is crisp and precise and Sarah’s vocals are beautiful once she has conquered first song nerves.  I’ve always rated Sarah Blackwood.  She has an intensely honest vocal style which is million miles away from the vocal gymnastics of a Maria Carey or a Whitney Houston.  Her style is unfussy, almost conversational and direct and the small venue acoustic setting for these songs suits her like a second skin.

The two covers especially, are fabulous.  You’d think that the twin issues of Morrissey’s idiosyncratic singing style and his highly personal kitchen sink drama lyrics would make difficult subjects for anyone else to cover.  The only person I know to manage this to date has been Sandie Shaw with her interpretation of ‘Hand in Glove’, but Sarah’s matter-of-fact delivery of ‘Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ makes the hairs on my neck stand up.  Wilkie’s Johnny Marr impersonation with little more than an acoustic guitar is also first rate.  Similarly, her stripped down version of ‘True Faith’ shows a depth of lyric that I barely noticed in the New Order original.

I’ve always felt that the acid test for any song is whether it still holds its magic when performed acoustically.  The MTV ‘Unplugged’ series in the 90s tested this theorem and discovered a few nuggets and the same holds with this collection.  This is music at its most accessible delivered without pretension to a small audience.  Yes, there are a few wobbly moments yet it is steeped in an authenticity that is hard to ignore.  It is an instance where the artist connects directly with her audience even via the recorded medium and you can’t always say that of music today.

For those interested, these songs are available via a link from http://5-against-4.blogspot.com/2008/05/client-b-acoustic-at-club.html
The download is in .RAR format so you will need to extract the MP3 files using something like WinZip or UnRar.

No comments: