(Prospect) On October 27th, Robin Trower is set to unveil 'Joyful Sky', a smoldering new album featuring the raw vocal prowess of Sari Schorr, released via the Provogue/Mascot Label Group. Celebrating this announcement, a lyric video for the lead single "Burn" has been released, offering fans a glimpse of what's to come. Always receptive to singers who can elevate his emotive guitar touch, the 78-year-old Trower heard a quality in the smoky power of the acclaimed New Yorker Sari Schorr that made him want to tear down and rebuild his songcraft around her. Pre-order the album HERE.
"I've worked with some great vocalists over the years but Sari is dynamite, just an absolute knockout," reflects Trower. "This album really pushed me, made me write in different keys and arrange songs for her voice. I went more down the R&B route this time, because I knew she'd be great with that flavour. But the blues still underpins everything I do - and there's definitely elements from my '70s stuff in this new album."
The greatest moments in Trower's discography have become required listening for any student of rock 'n' roll. Don't bet against the highlights of Joyful Sky joining the canon. "Burn is about someone who's trying to calm down their partner," he says of the smouldering opener, which sets up the propulsive and faintly Bond-like groove of I'll Be Moving On. "That one gets me right where I live," says the guitarist. "It's soulful, has a vibe about it."
For six decades, Robin Trower's career has been an act of quiet rebellion. Rewind the reels of the British guitarist's backstory and you'll find an artist who has always rolled the dice rather than take the path of least resistance. In the early-'70s, Trower announced his fearless streak by leaving the security of Procol Harum for a gold-selling solo career whose ever-present Bridge Of Sighs - album filled the stadiums of North America. Since then, he's flowed from his own projects to collaborations with everyone from Jack Bruce to the United State Of Mind supergroup alongside Maxi Priest and Livingstone Brown. Fast-forward to 2023 and Trower's new studio album, Joyful Sky, represents vindication for his latest flash of artistic instinct.
While the title of last year's No More Worlds To Conquer album could be interpreted as a coded farewell, Trower assures fans he has inspiration to burn and no intention of winding down. "If anything, recording new music is even more gratifying now. I love to play the guitar. I love to write songs. That's what keeps me bouncing. I've got all these songs, so I want to get them in the can and ready to go in case my health fails."
As the guitarist reminds us, it was the standout track from No More Worlds To Conquer that provided the segue into Joyful Sky. "The album with Sari started when Alan Robinson of Manhaton Records - who manages both of us - asked if I'd write something for her. The first thing I said to him was that I'd love to hear her sing I Will Always Be Your Shelter. It's a really special song to me. I had to completely rearrange it for her. But I knew she'd be wonderful on that song and it all grew from there."
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, on her stamping ground of Brooklyn, Schorr still remembers the thrill of taking Robinson's call. "He told me to think about it, but before he was even finished with the sentence, I'd already committed to the project," reflects the charismatic belter whose 2018 album Never Say Never was praised for a "husk and muscle voice that demands a little elbow-room in the blues scene" (Classic Rock).
"I was already a fan of Robin, absolutely," Schorr continues. "You don't want to use the word 'genius' casually, but I believe he is a genius. The way he feels and hears music is so acute, it's like he has superhuman powers. I had so much faith in his vision. You just grab on and hold tight."
The pair traded demos back and forth online, but in early 2023, Schorr beat a path to Studio 91 in Newbury, where Trower has tracked his solo albums for over a decade. And while the New Yorker admits to early nerves in the presence of this architect of British blues, she fell quickly into the groove with material that felt tailor-made.
As the album gathers pace, Joyful Sky kicks out against expectations with the soulful ode to self-empowerment on Change It, the dramatic guitar effects of the title track and The Circle Is Complete's seven-minute transition from a driving rocker to the kind of mournful extended outro solo at which Trower is untouchable.
Trower's calling cards might be present but Joyful Sky is no throwback: take the frayed strut of penultimate track Flatter To Deceive, on which Schorr rages against the shallow end of popular culture circa 2023. "She latched onto the lyric straightaway," nods the guitarist. "That song is a commentary on the disease of celebrity today. Joyful Sky is a little bit political, too, the things I'm complaining about. But with the chorus, I wanted to say that we have all these problems in the world but you've still got to stay positive."
A literal lifetime since he first stepped onto the British blues circuit as a cub gunslinger, that fabled Trower power shows no sign of burning out. In fact, the iconic guitarist's late-period acceleration is something to behold, sweeping up new fans alongside the hardcore who have followed his every move. "I think this record is more accessible than the stuff I've done over the last few years and I've got a feeling it'll reach more people," says Trower of Joyful Sky. "At my age, to still be doing it, and still turning out good stuff - you really appreciate what a blessing that is."
Joyful Sky by Robin Trower ft. Sari Schorr
2. I'll Be Moving On
3. The Distance
4. Peace Of Mind
5. Change It
6. Joyful Sky
7. Need For You
8. The Circle Is Complete
9. Flatter To Decieve
10. I Will Always Be Your Shelter