arts / BCB / Blues / Broadcasts / folk / jazz / music / songwriting / Swing Easy

Sarah Gillespie: Lady sings the blues

  • Gilad Atzmon and Sarah Gillespie

Album review: Sarah Gillespie: Glory Days (Pastiche Records, PR13004)

Sarah Gillespie is a mistress of the blues. No, not the 12-bar kind – though she does a blasting version of that old war-horse, St James Infirmary, as the conclusion of this otherwise self-written collection.
And like the classic blues singers, her songs dig beneath the surface of what it means to be human, using the personal to tell stories that are, in the broadest sense, political.
Her singing reminds me of Joni Mitchell – not in any similarity of vocal style, but the way she sings across the barlines, mixing conversation and declamation. And she sings like a jazz horn-player – again, not in any sort of emulation of Lady Day, but approaching a melody, taking it to pieces and putting it back together again in a way that reminded me of Charlie Parker.
She’s also a knock-out guitarist, switching effortlessly from clawhammer folk picking to chordal strums, with bits of Malian guitar wizardry.
In the end, however, it is the stories she tells that stick in the mind, with some tremendous one-liners – “your love was like digesting dynamite” and “I send you my logic, you send me your mystery“. Nor is she afraid of the occasionally banal: that last line is followed by “My heart flips whenever you kiss me.”
My heart flipped whenever (on this CD) she sang to me. “The personal is political”? Right on, sister!

An edited version of this review appeared in the Morning Star on July 16.

St James Infirmary is the first track on the BCB Swing Easy programme, to be broadcast on 106.6FM and on the Internet on on July 23, 6PM BST. From April 24 it can also be heard/downloaded from


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