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FabricationsHQ UK, Album Review, August 2017

“A first-class outfit with a fresh approach – with another vibrant, thoughtful and captivating album”

Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion aren’t just one of the most stylistically original bands currently on the British blues scene, they are one of the most prolific.

With the release of latest album This is the Life I Choose the band have delivered not just four diversified yet musically cohesive albums (influences range from trad. blues, R&B, jazz, pop/rock and swing) but two showcasing live albums, all within a very productive and critically acclaimed five year period.

Built around the creative force and songwriting team of Zoe Schwarz and guitarist Rob Koral, the band, on This is the Life I Choose, are a core quartet of vocals, guitar, organ and drums.

The latter pairing comes courtesy of noted jazz and blues Hammond player Pete Whittaker and highly sought-after session and live drummer Paul Robinson (everyone from The Buggles to Nina Simone).

Trumpeter Andy Urquhart and sax player Ian Ellis, part of the band’s studio sound since the excellent debut album Good Times, make an appearance on three numbers.

With a bright and shimmering rev-up of voice and instruments, opener 'Hold On' settles in to a cool, R&B styled number; Hammond and guitar double up on the melody riff (the song also delivers tasty solos from Rob Koral and Pete Whittaker, as do many of the tracks), backed by the precise beats of Paul Robinson and led by that that uniquely Zoe Schwarz mix of sassy charm and old-school Billie Holiday class.

(A major influence on Schwarz in her early teens, Holiday clearly inspired the Blue Commotion front woman to develop her own inimitable style of lyrical phrasing and vocal intonation, much as the pioneering jazz & blues legend did some eight decades before her).

Second number, the funky, blues 'n' jazz club styled 'My Baby Told Me So,' features the aforementioned Andy Urquhart and Ian Ellis before the tempo is upped for the train-on-tracks rhythm of 'People,' a song lyrically expressing the need to lend a hand to the less fortunate.

That song-for-others ideal is expressed more directly and superbly on the thought provoking 'Broken,' a genuine and heartfelt blues for the UK’s homeless (all proceeds from the digital download of the single version of 'Broken' are being donated to the national charity Crisis).

Other highlights of an album full of them include the bluesy vocal and six-string cries of the six and a half minute title track, the horns and big-beat groove of 'I Can’t Live Like That' and two fabulous Bonus Track covers in the shape of Cream’s 'We’re Going Wrong' and the show tune / crooner-blues standard 'Feeling Good.'

Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion have a series of plaudits and nominations to their name, including Runner-Up nods in both Best Band and Best Female Vocalist (two years running) at the British Blues Awards.

But this is no second best band – this is a first-class outfit with a fresh approach, the results of which mean they now have are another vibrant, thoughtful and captivating album under their blues-swingin’ belts.

  • 'Putting The Words To The Music"
    • Words by: Ross Muir