ROBERTA VANDERVORT & SALLY TOWNES / FORAGER RECORDS – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

In these dark, foreboding, days any little hint of light, of love, of creation – anything that speaks of warmth and goodness and laughter – is absolutely to be welcomed with open arms and glad hearts. Thanks and praise then to Forager Records for excavating this simply beautiful two-hander featuring two superb female artists previously lost to the sands of time – each of whom supply five wonderful tracks apiece.

It is, literally, heart-warming stuff: a riposte to the hate-filled and the war-mongerers. This is what peace and harmony and beauty sound like – this is what humans can do. Love love, hate hate: it’s the simplest and the most profound of messages, and we sing it every day.

Roberta Vandervort is up first and, hell yeah, she’s packed the good stuff. Opener, Stumbler, leads the way to, as she sings, ‘Another sunrise and a better day.’ The vibe is laid-back, effortlessly cool – funk flavours stirred up in an under three minutes roller: boogielicious, subtle, horns tastefully applied. A killer little guitar solo thrown in too.

Walk Softly comes in with heavy keys – think Jon Lord with a funk injection – before the drummer gets busy with the breaks. Two minutes in and there’s a frankly ridiculous bass drop, before Roberta comes back with an almost Sade-esque vocal performance. A lost classic without a doubt.

The temperature settles on the aching ballad, Child: ‘I’m tomorrow’s dream…believe in me’, sings Roberta, the backing vocalists laying it all out there – guitar again prominent as the groove stalls to a bass-led crawl and the musicians stretch out, having fun, locked in and getting down. ‘Can you see the love in my eyes?’, is the question – and the answer is most assuredly, yes – we certainly can. A slow jam banger, baby!

Supplying the ying to Roberta’s yang, Sally Townes’ five cuts slide in seamlessly – so much so that you can only admire the decision to pair them up. It works perfectly on every level. Real To You slinks in, chilled out, soulful, blending genres with ease – honky tonk piano solo and all. Sally’s vocal warm, inviting, crystal clear – so good.

Maybe More explosively ups the funk quota before the album draws to a close with the quiet storm that is Neon Castles – where another bravura vocal flies over a fantastic groove and Sally runs down the perils of ‘Diamonds and Lear jets and bodyguards’. We’re firmly in Fleetwood Mac territory as the tale of the ‘King of rock and roll’ unfolds. Story-telling, super-smooth keys, melancholic feels: ‘A nice game to play for a while….and you did it in style. 

If you’re partial to those always interesting intersections where jazz meets soul meets rock meets funk meets the street then this is an album for you. Roberta, Sally and Forager make a hell of a partnership. It would be great to know if there’s any more lost gems in their catalogues, because this stuff is simply brilliant. Essential.

Roberta Vandervort & Sally Townes is out now on Forager Records. 

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