Review: Rachael Sage is a Sage Indeed

Rachael Sage/The Other Side/Mpress Records
4.5 Out of Five Stars

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Rachael Sage sometimes seems like a force of nature. A distinctive and expressive artist, she could also be considered one of the individuals at the forefront of the women’s movement, having founded her own record label, MPress, being named a six-time Independent Music Award winner as well as a John Lennon Contest Grand Prize winner. She’s shared stages with an eclectic array of other artists, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, SXSW, and toured internationally.

Her brand of provocative alt-folk is both adventurous and appealing, as illustrated by the fact that her 2020 album Character brought her a charting single, “Blue Sky Days,” while her most recent project, Poetica, found her fusing poetry, jazz, classical music, and Americana in a way that brought to mind an unlikely alliance between Leonard Cohen and Laurie Anderson.

Clearly, there are no parameters she’s unable to push, making her not only an adventurous auteur but one of the most compelling and creative singers and songwriters of the modern era. 

Granted, that’s a mighty bold claim, but as her new album, The Other Side, easily indicates, Sage lives up to that description. With a top-notch group of musical collaborators to accompany her— guitarists Jack Petruzzelli (Patti Smith) and James Mastro (Ian Hunter), trumpet player Russ Johnson (Elvis Costello), bassist Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo), symphonic strings, and guest vocals courtesy of Howard Jones on the closing cut, “I Made a Case”—she’s produced a sprawling collection of beautifully adorned songs flush with both inspiration and imagination. The fact that the album boasts fifteen tracks allows quality and quantity to find equal emphasis throughout. 

Opening track “Whistle Blow” provides an atmospheric introduction, but there’s a similarly sublime feel pervading each of the entries that follow—“Flowers For Free,” “The Piece of Fun,” and the title track, among the many. Her take on Yazoo’s “Only You” and Maria McKee’s “Breathe” find a seamless fit in the mix as well, adding to the overarched allure that pervades practically every note and nuance. 

In fact, every song in the set is as sweet as the one that precedes it, making for a memorable array of melodies clearly attuned to the overriding optimism that pervades the album overall. The press release that accompanied the album quotes Sage as saying, “This record encompasses a high and low search for resilience in this broken world.” Every offering bears that out. The lush arrangements underscore the intent, casting a luminous glow over the proceedings with a depth and desire that’s thoroughly engrossing and affecting. In that regard, it’s hard to cite any particular standouts, simply because the album is so rich and resilient overall.

Suffice it to say Sage has made her masterpiece. The Other Side is nothing less than the sweetest of sojourns.

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