Sarah Mendelsohn’s new album, “IF”, is not your grandmother’s Mendelssohn! It is a collection of Sarah’s original songs, at once beautifully melodic with catchy hooks, rich harmonies and heartfelt lyrics. They are songs of love, loss, vulnerability, motherhood, hope and determination.
This new release is Sarah’s first solo venture (along with a great band – see below), but she is no stranger to the music scene. “I feel very lucky to have been in three really great and long lasting bands over the years, playing music that has deeply moved those listening, including myself. People have gone out of their way to tell me how much the music has meant to them and how it has been an important backdrop in their lives. There is no higher praise than that, and to me, that is truly the essence of what music is and should be – moving.”
While Sarah wrote the songs, each member of her band brought their ideas, influences and unique sounds to the mix. Co-produced (along with Jonas and Sarah), engineered and mixed by two time Grammy Award winner Ducky Carlisle, the album really shines.
Sarah grew up loving to sing and as a child started playing guitar with a young trio of neighborhood friends in Cambridge, MA. They played at their parents parties and from there, the performance bug bit. In her college years she met the musicians and became one of the founding members of the ever popular Shy Five. It was a union that was meant to be (but that’s a story for another time). During that era, by default, Sarah became the band’s drummer (having never played drums before!). She contributed to the songwriting and of course, she sang. The band liked her unconventional (i.e. untrained) drumming style and surprising herself, she found it was something she could do.
Putting aside her drums for a while to slow the pace and raise two kids, Sarah found herself following a new musical direction with a high-school/college friend. That was the birth of Paved Country. It started out as a singing/writing collaboration, but once they started recording, the engineer/guitar player convinced them that they should take it to the clubs. As with Shy Five, Paved Country enjoyed a long run. During this period Sarah began to write in earnest, finding it to be a great outlet and a rewarding challenge. They made three top-notch albums together.
While playing guitar and singing in her new band, Sarah is also back on the drums and one of the vocalists in Duppy Conquerors, a tribute to Bob Marley. This nine piece band plays Marley’s music with love and respect, covering all eras of his music. The band was put together by former Shy Five bandmate, Jeff Robinson, who also plays sax on Sarah’s new album along with the Duppy Conqueror horn section.
And then there’s the kid band, Rubber Biscuit. Sarah and her two bandmates play mini instruments – yes, Sarah plays mini drums. There’s ukes, guitars, accordions, percussion of all sorts, kazoos, and pretty much anything else that comes along. To quote from their website, “Rubber Biscuit is a trio that performs for children, but is truly a band for all ages. You can’t help but notice how much fun they’re having when they play and how their exuberance takes hold of the audience as well. They play on miniature instruments with luscious three part harmonies and a unique sound of their own. Their song selection is what sets them apart from most other young people’s music, ranging from gospel to doo-wop, rock and roll, tin pan alley, calypso, a few originals and of course some of the more traditional songs for children.”
Musicians on the album
Sarah Mendelsohn – vocals, guitar, percussion, Mellotron
Jonas Kahn – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, octave 12-string, Mellotron
Joe Klompus – bass
Jeff Allison – drums
Also featuring: Carol Namkoong – keyboards
Kabir Sen – keyboards, vocals on #5
Jeff Robinson – sax on #6
Dave Szebeda – trumpet on #6
Clayton DeWalt – trombone on #6
Dana Colley – baritone sax, tenor sax, bass clarinet on #12
Ducky Carlisle – Mellotron
And friends helped out on the harmony singing! Carol Namkoong, Curtis King, Ducky Carlisle, Kabir Sen, Kevin Byrne, Kit Holliday and Tim Hughes