The Sisterhood Edition Limitee

Sarah Jane Morris – The Sisterhood (Weatherbox)

Over the years of writing about music, I’ve been fortunate to talk to a lot of amazing musicians. My favourite interview ever conducted with this outlet was late last summer when Sarah Jane Morris spoke to me about this album. It truly was a labour of love (and you can read the interview here) and now it’s here.

Born out of boredom during the lockdowns, Ms. Morris and her right-hand man guitarist Tony Rémy set to researching and writing songs about the lives of female singer-songwriters who have inspired her. She had started with a list of about fifty, she narrowed it down to ten. So what we have is the result of a lot of hard work, inspiration and dedication. Not only does it tell the stories of ten amazing artists, but they also wrote it in the styles that the artists had popularised and performed in. Ambitious? Unquestionably, but Ms. Morris has pulled this off with spectacular style. Maybe that should be styles plural, as this record takes in jazz and blues, along with gospel and soul, and does so with aplomb.

The ten artists concerned are Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Annie Lennox, and Kate Bush. Only the last four are still with us, but I hope they can hear this brilliant work.

The album opens with the title track which, as well as being the tribute to Aretha Franklin, also sets the scene for what follows. Morris has a real feel for her subjects; you sense she is genuinely moved in ‘Couldn’t Be Without‘ that Bessie Smith was buried in an unmarked grave, a situation rectified by Janis Joplin eventually paying for the gravestone thirty years later, and was open about the influence Smith had on her.

The songs really are fully formed tributes, not just admiration but in terms of attempting to understand their subjects, the music they made and the lives they lead. Thus Joni Mitchell is acknowledged not just as a singer-songwriter but also as an artist. Amongst the best is the Rickie Lee Jones song ‘Jazz Side Of The Road, ‘which was the first track to be released, which talks about her hitching barely into her teens. The idea of Kate Bush as the ‘Rimbaud Of Suburbia‘ is an idea that many music journalists will wish they had come up with, but few of them would have actually been able to turn it into a song, or the way that Annie Lennox used her fame to educate her band members about the AIDS crisis in Africa (see, artists can do this without preaching).

The highlight of the album, however, is the Miriam Makeba tribute ‘Miss Makeba.’ She went to Johannesburg to record with the legendary Soweto Gospel Choir; something must have been at work as the song was actually recorded on what would have been Miriam Makeba’s 90th birthday. It’s a fitting close to an album that deserves to get recognition and plaudits not just for all the hard work that went into making it, but most importantly, how brilliant it really is. This album deserved not just to be played, but also owned and listened to. Get to it.


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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.