Sarah McCoy

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Last Show: Tuesday 14 th May 2019

The Pheasantry (Chelsea)

Sarah McCoy spent a good deal of her twenties playing piano and singing in fly-ridden, hotter-than-hell New Orleans dives—places whose chaos matched the On the Road life she’d been living since the age of twenty. Now, at 33, she carries on a tradition perfected by Tom Waits, Amy Winehouse, Leon Russell, and Janis Joplin, who turned the wreckage of embattled lives into poetry.

Blood Siren, her major-label debut, captures Sarah’s haunted moan, a sound that both chills and touches the heart. The songs, which she wrote, are as intimate and unguarded as diary entries. “I don’t like who I am/Who I’ve been/Or who I’ll be … Dear mamma, there’s no one left but you to pray/You to pray for me.” Her lyrics, according to music journalist Brett Milano, “are a survivor’s testimony, full of references to dashed hopes and lost friendships and delivered with gritty determination.” At times her imagery is as lush and vivid as William Faulkner’s: “It was the breath of sweet olive trees/Steeped through summer’s heat/As they heave their breath into the street/And dangle from the feet of bees.” 

Producers Chilly Gonzales and Renaud Letang create a stark midnight atmosphere. There’s Sarah on piano and guitar, touches of cello and celesta, some electronic sounds, and plenty of silence, along with a voice that sounds just as it does when she’s alone in her room. All this rawness is a world away from the Auto-Tuned, robotic gloss of contemporary pop.