Screens and screens of digital ink have already been spilt opining about the fate, recovery, and dissolution of the music industry in the Age of Coronavirus. From clubs and concerts to record stores and touring, things look…not good.
Like a lot of artists right now, Canadian blues rock singer Sass Jordan is stuck at home, unable to perform to promote her fine new record, Rebel Moon Blues (Stony Plain). But – in a weird way – she sees a benefit to it all.
“Actually, it’s kind of better in a lot of ways. There’s less distraction and people are spending more time listening to stuff,” she says. “The amazing side of this is that everybody’s slowed down, paying attention to who they are, and the philosophical stuff going along with all the bad things. I’m just hoping that the more people who hear it, the more will want to come see me live.”
Rebel Moon Blues features seven covers of blues tunes written by the likes of Sleepy John Estes (“Leaving Trunk”), Willie Dixon (“My Babe”), J.B. Hutto (“Too Much Alcohol”), Gary Moore (“Still Got the Blues”), and Keb Mo’ (“Am I Wrong”), along with standards “One Way Out” and “Palace of the King.”
Jordan wrote the sole original tune, “The Key,” with her husband Derek Sharp, who’s day (night?) gig is as the lead singer for the current incarnation of Canadian classic rockers the Guess Who.
Jordan was born in the UK but raised in Montreal, and is much better known in her current home country that here. She’s been performing since the late ‘70s, and her first album came out in 1988. Jordan was also a judge for six seasons on “Canadian Idol” and has won a number of Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy).
In the U.S., she may be best known for her duet with Joe Cocker, “Trust in Me,” that appeared on the gazillion-selling soundtrack for the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner movie The Bodyguard.
To pick the songs for Rebel Moon Blues, Jordan says she’d think of a song or hear a something on SiriusXM and go home to research it on YouTube, which also gave her other suggestions. A true live effort, it was recorded with her and her band, the Champagne Hookers (Chris Caddell and Jimmy Reid on guitars, Derrick Brady on bass, and Cassius Pereira on drums) with several guests live. Everyone playing and singing at the same time in the same room.
“It’s a question of just sounding fresh doing it that way,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with recording separately, but this is what made sense for the type of music this is. There’s an energy that happens when people play live together, and it’s impossible to reproduce that in layers when recording.”
Growing up, Jordan loved the voices of classic rock titans like Paul Rodgers, Robert Palmer, Steve Perry, and Gregg Allman. But because she’s a white woman with long hair, sometimes hippie clothing, and a bluesy, raspy voice, she’s been compared to Janis Joplin her entire career. A connection made more surreal by the fact that she played and sang as the “Piece of My Heart” singer during an off-Broadway run of the autobiographical play/concert Love, Janis.
“I’ve heard it over and over, but the irony is that I was never a fan of Janis Joplin before that show!” she says. “It was a whole accident when I got the job in the play. After that, I developed a very great respect for her. I’ve also had a lot of comparisons to any singer with long blond hair like Stevie Nicks, and also Melissa Etheridge. My goal was actually more to sound like a black gospel singer.”
She was also a rabid fan of the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. So when she was asked to be part of the performing troupe on “A Bowie Celebration” that featured a lot of the Thin White Duke’s former stage and studio bandmates, she jumped at the chance.
“People got very excited to hear that [David Bowie] music live again,” she says. “It transcends the individual who originally did it at some point. And if it’s played with love and care and the performers and audience share that lineage…it’s wonderful.”
But for now and the foreseeable future, Sass Jordan won’t be on the road with any Hookers or Bowie Boys or…anybody. “What’s going on right now, it’s like being in an extreme sci-fi movie,” she says. “I think the response is a little over the top compared to what’s actually happening. But I’m just hanging tight, hanging out, watching the world economy crumble, and listening to music!”
She’s also pursuing a number of non-musical interests, and that includes launching her own brand of whiskey, joining her line of red and white wines under the label Kick Ass Sass. Because Quarantine Cocktail Hour can start…well, anytime.
“What goes better with the blues than the booze!” she laughs. “I’m a booze maven, baby!”
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.