The Black Sorrows – Saint Georges Road (2021)

The Black Sorrows - Saint Georges Road (2021)
Artist: The Black Sorrows
Album: Saint Georges Road
Genre: Blues Rock
Label: Woodstock Music
Released: 2021
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

Tracklist:
What Stephanie Knows (00:03:34)
What’s Taken Your Smile Away (00:04:07)
Livin’ Like Kings (00:04:13)
Saint Georges Road (00:04:20)
Another Blue Day (00:03:58)
Chiquita (00:03:13)
Holy Man (00:03:55)
Revolutionary Blues (00:03:10)
My Heart Don’t Feel a Thing (00:03:47)
Only Got Yourself to Blame (00:03:34)
King Without a Throne (00:04:00)

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“King Without a Throne is a song Joe would have loved to hear Karen Carpenter sing. That not being possible, he gives one of the vocal performances of his life on a late-career classic.”
You get to a point in life where you go to more funerals than weddings. That’s inevitable. You pay your respects, say your goodbyes, you get on with living.

In Joe Camilleri’s case, you do what you have been doing for most of your life. Write the best songs you can, pour everything you know into making a record, send it out to the world.

His latest, Saint Georges Road, is his 50th album, stretching back to Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons in the ’70s and through band incarnations including Bakelite Radio, The Revelators and 18 albums now with The Black Sorrows, the little band formed “just for fun” that is still thriving almost 40 years on.

A half-century of albums is a milestone few achieve, and no-one gets there unless there is talent and tenacity in equal measure. But how many artists release a record that’s as good as this when they’re 73?

The album opens with What Stephanie Knows, the kind of sultry soul song that might have been found on an early Boz Scaggs album. On the gospel-fired Another Blue Day Camilleri rips it up like one of his R&B heroes, Solomon Burke (that’s Joe’s old Falcons bandmate Wilbur Wilde on sax). Chiquita gets back to the Louisiana zydeco spirit of the early Black Sorrows, and Livin’ Like Kings has the radio-ready sound of some of the band’s best-loved songs.

But Camilleri is sure that one of the reasons that the band has survived for all these years is that he and his songwriting partner Nick Smith have never wasted time looking over their shoulder at past glories.

Joe has worn many hats over the years: band leader, producer, sax player, the singer out front, songwriter, and on Saint Georges Road he shares some of the load by working with his old friend Peter Solley, the English record producer who was at the helm for Jo Jo Zep’s breakthrough 1979 album Screaming Targets.

In recent years there has been a lot of loss to process for Camilleri and Smith, with the passing of Joe’s brother Tony and music contemporaries like Chris Wilson, Martin Armiger, Greedy Smith and Michael Gudinski.

The songwriting duo address that on the title track, farewelling a life at a funeral and then wondering, what do I do with the rest of mine? The answer, of course, is to do the things that make you happy, and the result is an album that’s mostly about celebration, not existential anxiety.

Holy Man has a funky, New Orleans edge, Revolutionary Blues is sweaty, old-timey rock’n’roll, Only Got Yourself to Blame is the kind of tough, bluesy tune that Jo Jo Zep might have blazed through in their pub rock years.

And the album closes with King Without a Throne, a song that’s as fine as anything Camilleri and Smith have ever written. It’s a song Joe would have loved to have heard Karen Carpenter sing. That not being possible, he gives one of the vocal performances of his life on a late-career classic.

Here’s a typical Camilleri story. There was so much to choose from when recording was completed, the song almost didn’t make the record!

Noel Mengel

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