Let’s start the year in barnstorming style with a concert by British soul and jazz singer Sarah Jane Morris, who will surely blow away your post-Christmas blues with her impassioned style of singing and resonant contralto voice. Morris has an impeccable pedigree. She first came to prominence in the early 80s as a member of The Happy End, a 25-strong musical collective who were energised by the repressive political climate of Thatcher’s Britain. They sang Bertolt Brecht songs, Maoist workers’ anthems and South African township jazz, and played endless benefit gigs for striking miners and the left-wing Greater London Council. Later, Morris found fame as guest vocalist with British gay pop duo the Communards, singing on their massive 1986 hit “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” She also gave a stunning performance in the role of the Chorus in the 1991 studio recording of Peter Hammill’s opera The Fall of the House of Usher. In recent years she has released a string of solo albums and collaborations with other musicians, always highlighting the richness of her voice, which she likes to describe as “Nina Simone meets Janis Joplin.”
Moving a little further into left field, say hello to American songwriters Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli, a.k.a. The Gutter Twins. These guys have long and successful histories of involvement in the post-punk and grunge scenes, Lanegan with Screaming Trees, Dulli with the Afghan Whigs. Since their groups split up in the early 2000s, both Lanegan and Dulli have pursued idiosyncratic paths. Alighting on a polished and evocative brand of alt.rock, Lanegan has collaborated with former Belle & Sebastian waif Isobel Campbell and recorded a number of acclaimed albums under his own name. Dulli has recorded both under his own name and under the rubric of the Twilight Singers. Given their parallel paths, it was inevitable that Lanegan and Dulli would one day work together, and sure enough, the Gutter Twins emerged with an album, Saturnalia, in early 2008. Likened by Dulli to “the satanic Everly Brothers,” the Twins are a raw and confessional delight.
Finally, British art-punk legends Wire descend into the pleasantly distressed surroundings of the Fluc Wanne for an evening of uncompromising sonic attack. Wire have been an on-off concern ever since forming at the height of punk in 1976. Despite displaying many of the standard punk trademarks, such as short songs and a healthily anti-establishment attitude, their music has retained a sense of artistry that has seen them feted on the arthouse and festival circuit. Now without founder member Bruce Gilbert, Wire continue to make a strong impression with their enigmatic lyrical content and effects-heavy guitar-based sound.