Rachael Sage – The Blistering Sun

Rachael Sage
The Blistering Sun

It’s extremely hard to believe that The Blistering Sun is Rachael Sage’s seventh album and that she isn’t burning up the pop charts yet. The New York City-based chanteuse has the right combination of a great voice, genuine piano skills, and solid songwriting with great hooks and thoughtful lyrics that could do so well on the radio. Sage has done a ton of touring, including a stint on the Lilith Fair bill, and it seems that has only seasoned her already impeccable talents. From the first track on The Blistering Sun, you can’t help but get sucked into Rachael Sage’s expressive pop-rock.

The Blistering Sun features a whole host of studio musicians to help create the varied sound of Rachael’s songs. I count no less than 15 people – from backing vocals and bass to drums and cello. Sage plays piano, and although each of the songs here could easily stand on their own with no accompaniment, the extra instruments definitely help define the style of some of the tracks and allow for a richer tapestry of sound. All of Rachael’s guest musicians are quite notable in their own right – from Todd Sickafoose on bass (Ani DiFranco) and Julie Wolf on organ (Dar Williams and others) to Russ Johnson on trumpet (Norah Jones) and Dean Sharp on drums (Moby). She couldn’t have picked a more solid group to bring this album to life.

The peppy and extremely catchy “Alright, OK” opens The Blistering Sun. This track has a danceable swing feel that belies the somewhat tongue-in-cheek lyrics about facing your biggest fears. “93 Maidens” is superbly lit up with accordions for an Eastern European feel and tells the tragic story of Chaya Feldman, a young woman who – along with her classmates – killed themselves instead of submitting to the Nazis during WWII. This passionate number seems like one of the most personal of Rachael’s songs, and it’s also one of the absolute gems on The Blistering Sun.

Rachael dabbles in all sorts of genres on The Blistering Sun, although many of her songs are firmly rooted in pop and rock like “Wildflower” and “Featherwoman.” She delves into airy R&B on “Violet or Blue” as well as jazz on “Lonely Streets” and “Burning Witch.” The avant-garde, mostly spoken word “Hit Song” somehow manages to pair up equally as well with the soft cover of Melissa Ferrick’s “Anything Anywhere” as it does with the earnest ballad “Calypso.”

The Blistering Sun is a strong album overall, but I have to admit to enjoying Rachael Sage’s music to the fullest when she’s exploring the nuances of diverse musical styles outside the standards of pop and rock. Regardless of the influences, every song here is quite enjoyable and shows off the many talents of Rachael Sage. Pop-rock music fans can easily count The Blistering Sun as one of the best albums of 2006.