13 tracks / 59:32
Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion has certainly been keeping busy, and earlier this year they released their fifth album in the last four years: This is the life I choose, a keen follow-up to their fantastic live release, I’ll Be Your Tonight. If you had the chance to listen to that CD you already know that this is a serious blues band with unique songs, tight instrumentation, and a powerful woman up front. This crew has not let up one bit, and their latest album is their best work yet!
Blue Commotion is based in the United Kingdom, with Zoë Schwarz on vocals and producer Rob Koral on guitar. Their comrades in arms include Pete Whittaker on the Hammond organ and Paul Robinson on drums, and the horn section of Ian Ellis (sax), and Andy Urquhart (trumpet) also join in for a few tracks. These folks are pros, and they were able to lay down all thirteen tracks (eleven of them originals) in just two days last October at Platform Studio. The result of this fast-paced production schedule is an album with a vibrant feel, and Zoë says that she likes to work “in the moment,” which has been very effective for this band.
The lyrics for the album’s originals were written by Zoë and Rob, and there also contributions from Phil Coles and Pete Feenstra. The songs are a neat mix of playful, sweet, and serious, and the ones related to living life in the music business will resonate well with listeners. For example, the title track sets the mood and theme for the album, as “This is the life I choose” provides a glimpse into the hearts and souls of musicians who put everything they have into their art. This power ballad is presented in a 1970s blues-rock format with cool dynamic changes and oodles of distorted organ from Whittaker and heavy drums from Robinson. Then there is “I Can’t Live Like That,” which has a completely different feel, going with an upbeat and funky sound that includes the horns of Ellis and Urquhart while Schwarz growls out the advice to message of not letting people get in the way of your dreams. And “My Baby Told Me So” spans the gap between blues and jazz with the message that, the blues and a faithful companion will make things seem a bit brighter, even if you are short on money.
Relationships are also a reliable source of song lyrics, and Blue Commotion heads there right off with the opener, “Hold On.” Coles’ words capture the essence of a dying romance, and the band delivers with Zoë’s edgy vocals and their hard rocking accompaniment, which includes a scorching solo from Rob. There is also an upbeat plea for unity with our fellow man with “People,” which has a decidedly international feel with its driving bass line and slick solo breaks from Rob and Pete. But, perhaps the most poignant track on This is the life I choose is “Broken,” a heartbreaking R&B song that addresses a hopelessness that many of will never know, but many will endure. This song has been released as a single, with proceeds going to charity to help the less fortunate among us; please keep this in mind as you listen to Schwarz’s emotional narrative.
This is the life I choose is a wonderful combination of modern blues sounds with infusions of jazz, funk, rock and soul. The songs are all well written and performed by a professional band, and the engineering and mixing meet the group’s high standards. Blues fans will surely dig this new release from Zoë Schwarz Blue Commotion, and if you will be on their side of the Atlantic you are in luck as they have plenty of UK shows and festivals scheduled. For those of us in the states, there is always the possibility that they will make it over here for a festival or a tour sometime soon. They are highly entertaining with a great catalog of original music, so hopefully they can make this happen!