Strangers in Paradise: One Night, One Room, One Great Band, One Fantastic Album

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Recorded live, "under the bones" at New Bedford's Whaling Museum, our latest release showcases vocalist Sarah Brooks and Graceful Soul in a live concert setting from December of 2006. "Graceful Soul" consists of guitarists Jim Robitaille and Bob Schlink, saxophonist Marcus Monteiro and a rock-steady rhythm section of Bill Miele on bass and drummer Ken Hadley. This CD has captured what happens when a soulful vocalist is united with a group of seasoned musicians, with free rein granted. The result; A powerful live performance captured for all to enjoy. Eleven tracks, including Sam Cooke's "Bring it on Home to Me," and Lennon & McCartney's "You Can't do That" are performed to perfection. Two versions of "Amazing Grace" are also included; One, a vocal version recorded as part of this performance, and the other, a bonus instrumental version, recorded ten-years earlier to the date, which featured a duet of saxophonists Al Oliveira and Dino Govoni. A very dynamic CD that's well worth a listen

Sarah Brooks and Graceful Soul

It's an unorthodox formula: Find a great room, invite a bunch of friends, load it with top-notch recording equipment, and, oh yeah … get a band together to make the music. Strange? Backwards? Yes and yes. But when it's done right and the pieces come together, you might, just possibly, capture lightning in a bottle. Which is exactly what happened on Under the Bones of the Great Blue Whale.

Recorded live in the "Whaling City" of New Bedford, the album is the brain child of Neal Weiss, the founder and head chef of the tasty, top-notch imprint Whaling City Sound. Weiss and partner Dave Arruda set about assembling the pieces of this intriguing puzzle. "It was a little like a paranormal investigation," writes Weiss in the liner notes. "The outcome is not guaranteed. [But] if it goes well, you catch a spirit." Which, thanks to a great band and a magical room, (the session was conducted literally under the bones of a blue whale). it did.

The impromptu band hinged around singer Sarah Brooks, the linchpin of the gig. Not only does Brooks have a powerful voice, she's also got great command. With a set list featuring impeccable choices in pop, rock, soul, and R&B, Brooks steamrolls through an array of classics with the confidence and resolve of someone with complete mastery of the repertoire. Pitch perfect and with all the right moves, Brooks pays tribute to the great songwriters of our era, from Sam Cooke ("Bring It On Home To Me"), Burt Bacharach ("Look of Love") and the Beatles ("You Can't Do That.") She also leans into the Etta James classic "At Last," and digs deeply into the spiritual "Amazing Grace," which comes across as the defining moment of this incredible session. With songs like these, and a performance like hers, the combination couldn't possibly miss. Brooks was so taken with the performance, she returned to dub in background vocals.

And the all-star band sure helps … Talents include a who's who of the musicianship throughout the region. The fact that Sarah hadn't met any of the instrumentalists before the night of the gig added an element of intrigue and suspense to the festivity. Bill Miele (bass) and Kenny Hadley (drums) served as the perfect, and perfectly agile, rhythm section. Jim Robitaille and Bob Schlink provided the melody and rhythm on guitar, while Marcus Monteiro did the same on keys. Once Brooks realized she was surrounded by pros, and this band could really play, she settled in and let it all hang out. Her performance, her accompaniment, the repertoire and room, all came together to create one truly memorable night. And what a story.


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Ginny Shea
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