Rachael Sage is a prolific NYC-based singer/songwriter and visual artist. ‘Character’ is the title track of her 15th solo album, which is out this coming Friday. Sage earned her chops sharing stages with everyone from Sarah McLachlan to Ani DiFranco to The Animals to Marc Cohn since releasing her début album, Morbid Romantic, on her own label, MPress Recordings. She very much follows in the tradition of theatrical folk rock, kind of like an unplugged Amanda Palmer, and maybe not quite as, uh, excessive as Palmer.
But then tragedy struck in 2018, and Sage was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. During her recovery, she began writing songs again (though, in all honesty, it seems like she’s never not writing songs). Character, the album, is very much a song cycle that arose out of that experience, and the feelings of gratitude, compassion, optimism and authenticity, and pondering what makes character. Having myself survived a life-threatening infection, I can relate to this approach. In fact, Sage reports that ‘I don’t think I understood the full meaning of the word ‘character’ until I was suddenly required to redefine my own. I had to decide very quickly what kind of patient I wanted to be, and in the process I learned how resolute I could become.’
Her new material sees Sage digging deeper into a more alt-rock sound, more guitars, more instrumentation. Over a hushed electric guitar riff, Sage adopts a Charlotte Gainsbourg-esque vocal approach, her breathy vocals traversing over the guitar, bass, and drums, and a beautiful bit of cello. Lyrically, she examines the cornerstones of our social life: faith, authenticity, freedom, and integrity. And she asks, ‘What does it mean to have character?’
I have to admit, I love this song. I love the construction of the song, the ways in which the guitar and cello weave around each other, and the way in which her vocals work in the spaces in between. I’m really looking forward to this album.
She is currently touring with 80s icon Howard Jones, which continues through the month of March before she hits the road for a few solo, headlining gigs. You can check out her itinerary here.