Husky, raw and emotionally exposed.
Angus Taylor 2008
To the public at large Sarah Jane Morris was the deep voiced diva who played foil to Jimmy Somerville's falsetto on the Communards 1986 hit Don't Leave Me This Way. But since then, as her fans will be at great pains to point out, she has been recording and performing prolifically with a diverse array of maverick talent from Pere Ubu’s David Thomas to Peter Hamill of Van Der Graaf Generator "fame".
11th solo album Migratory Birds finds her alongside guitarist Marc Ribot for a potentially daunting selection of songs by big names including Dylan, Dolly Parton, and the Velvet Underground. A one time Tom Waits collaborator, Ribot must be used to working with atypical voices and his taut, often acoustic, backing allows Sarah’s ageless, genderless tones (like Nina Simone after too much smoking in bed) the room they need.
The unusual choices work best. A gaunt, haggard rendition of Cathy Dennis' Toxic shows just what a good song it is, while her impression of Sly Stone on If You Want Me To Stay puts previous efforts, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers version, to shame. The more shopworn material - such as Just Like A Woman and Wild Horses - feels lukewarm by comparison, although Morris always steps fearlessly into each composition and makes it her own.
One thing's for sure: those who remember the camp brash and brassy Morris of Don't Leave Me This Way will be surprised by this stripped down set - that leaves her husky, raw and emotionally exposed.