How Was The Show?


At her recent show, the remarkable Ms. Lisa Fischer took time between songs to talk about some of the people she’s worked with. Talking about Tina Turner, she marveled at how Tina was set on this planet to do a thing, and found what that thing was, and did it as well as possible. It’s fortunate for Tina that she found her calling, and for the rest of us as well! While Lisa was saying this, I couldn’t help but think about Sarah Morris.

Sarah is a bit of an anomaly. She lives in the suburbs, not far from where she grew up. She is a devoted wife and mother of two. She drives a minivan and enjoys running. She moves among us normal people with ease. But hidden behind these seemingly pedestrian trappings is a songwriter of devastating insight blessed with a rich, impossibly elastic voice; a master melodist a la Gillian Welch, Dave Simonett, or Dave Pirner. Sarah was put here to filter the human experience into incredible songs, and it’s a task she has taken to with grace.

Sarah’s music occupies that nebulous space between pop, folk, and country: an uncomfortable space if you need to put such labels on things to enjoy them. While deeply rooted in Nashville, Morris’s songs, and sound, is perhaps a bit more Maren Morris than Loretta Lynn, more Brandi Carlile than Emmylou Harris. While she shows her pop side, her country roots shine through.

After playing a brand-new song, Sarah and her Sometimes Guys: Dave Mehling, guitar/piano; Nick Salisbury, bass; Lars-Erik Larson, drums; played through her entire latest album, 2023’s Here’s to You, front to back. They had never done it before, so why not try it here? I attended her release show at Icehouse; as great as they sounded there, it is particularly rewarding to hear her in this venue. Such pristine sound conditions allow Sarah to be even more intentional with her phrasing.

Her Sometimes Guys are simply phenomenal (named because of how many solo shows she does! Sometimes she has a band, sometimes not). Dave Mehling, who produced Here’s to You, somehow played a Gibson SG guitar into a Fender amplifier quieter than I knew was possible. He also provided crucial piano to several songs. It cannot be said enough how enjoyable The Dakota’s new Steinway is, it makes literally every show better! Bassist Nick Salisbury introduced us to his 1959 Gibson bass, an odd old instrument with tuning pegs mounted on the back like old banjos used to be made. He effortlessly adjusted his attack to mimic an upright bass sound or a smooth P-bass sound, depending on the song. Lars-Erik Larson set the groove on the drums, complementing the playing of everyone around him while keeping the stage volume low (I counted maybe two times the band played something approaching “loud”).

Just as soon as you think you have Sarah pegged as a new-school pop singer, she rips into a George Strait tune and we’re right back in Nashville! She and the band tore through “I Just Want to Dance With You” with an energy unmatched in the set.

The second set was a quick tour through her other albums: gems like “All Mine” and “Mendocino” (featuring Matthew French on vocals), and fan favorites like “Hearts in Need of a Little Repair” and “Stir Me Up” were lovingly performed and appreciated by Sarah’s faithful fans.

In describing the overall feeling in the room, one returns to the same words, over and over. Joy. Family. Community. Love. She wraps all these ideas up with her final song of the evening, a singalong (of course!) titled “Spread Kindness Like Confetti.” With characters this vivid, with couplets this compelling, with the range of emotions she conveys, Morris could easily be a household name in Nashville or even on Broadway. Our incredible fortune is that she chooses to live here and share these songs with us.




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