Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion is a British band with a powerhouse vocalist, electrifying guitarist, amazing Hammond oiganist,, and rock-steady drummer. Their new album, “This Is The Life I Choose,” proves them to be capable of great diversity, ranging from heavy blues rock to jazzy ballads.
This is a band that loves to jam. Every song provides not only a chance for Schwarz to shine on vocals but for Rob Koral to unleash some fiery guitar, while Pete Whitaker offers expressive Hammond and Paul Robinson provides just the right backbone for all of it on drums.
The album consists of 11 original songs and two bonus tracks which are covers. Basically, it is a concept album, which explores the harder, darker side of being a musician, barely scraping by on the road, but with the clear understanding that this is a conscious choice. From the first powerful notes from Schwarz on the heavy rocker “Hold On” through the bright,jazzy “My Baby Told Me So” to the timely message of love and equality in “People,” you already get the hint that this album covers a lot of different styles. But then comes the intensely emotional ballad, “Broken,” which begins with a gorgeous intro from the band and then allows Schwarz to showcase her strong interpretive ability. What perfect control!
This leads into the definitive title song,”This Is The Life I Choose,” with its potent imagery depicting the down side of the life of a blues woman. It is followed by a declaration of independence on the swing song “I Can’t Live Like That” and the punk-ish “No Money In My Pocket,” which stylistically reminds me of Joan Jett. We then get the much more laid-back, primarily acoustic blues of “Call Of The Night.”
Here ends the album proper, but the 2 bonus covers are far from throw-aways. The first is a haunting version of Jack Bruce’s “We’re Going Wrong.” and it all ends with my favorite track on the album, a magnificent version of “Feeling Good” which easily rivals Nina Simone’s.
This is a marvelous album. My one small quibble is that it is perhaps a bit too diverse. I felt a twinge of whiplash by the end from all those changes. I would have liked to have heard more of something: rock, jazz or blues, for at least a couple of songs in a row. But that is a very small quibble. Get the album. You will be impressed.