There’s no question that the blues are an intrinsic part of Sass Jordan’s musical makeup – heck, she even played lead in the off-Broadway Janis Joplin musical Love, Janis. But it took some convincing for her to make the upcoming covers album Rebel Moon Blues, whose rendition of Sleepy John Estes’ “Leaving Trunk” is premiering exclusively below.
The project was broached by Jordan’s label, Stony Plain Records, and not entirely welcomed by the Canadian singer and actress. “When someone told me ‘You really should do a blues record’ before, I replied, ‘Go take a hike!’ And that was the polite way of saying it,” Jordan tells Billboard. It was Jordan’s husband, Guess Who singer Derek Sharp, who convinced her to change her mind.
“Derek said, ‘This blues record, it’s so YOU, Sass,'” she recalls. “He said, ‘Look at the song by Gary Moore (‘Still Got the Blues’); It’s got the blues, but it still rocks.” And when he said that, it was like this light went on. I just went, ‘Holy….’ That made so much sense to me. I love this music, and it made sense that I do this. I have a bluesy voice. I’ve always been called bluesy. So I was like, ‘Alright, let’s own this,’ and we had a blast doing it.”
The eight-track Rebel Moon Blues (out March 13) also features songs by Willie Dixon, Elmore James, Freddie King and Rory Gallagher, along with one Jordan-Sharp original, “The Key” — for which she cites Tom Petty as an influence. Jordan calls the song selection “arduous,” but in a good way. “It’s almost like an endless gold mine, isn’t it,” she says of the possibilities. “There’s really no end to it.” So much so that Jordan promises “I’m gonna do it again” at some point in the future.
Rebel Moon Blues – recorded in Toronto with her band the Champagne Hookers and a couple of extra players — is also noteworthy because it finds Jordan covering songs entirely by men and refusing to change gender-specific lyrics. That wasn’t by design, Jordan says, other than deciding “I was not gonna focus specifically on female blues singers, per se. It was just going to be about the song, no matter who did it.” She was also surprised that when she found blues material by female singers, particularly from decades ago, “I was kind of in shock – they were the filthiest, most unbelievably foul and hilarious stuff you’ve ever heard. But I didn’t feel like I was ready to do that, at least not the first time with this. I just decided to go with whatever resonated with me at the moment.”
Jordan plans to do some touring to support Rebel Moon Blues, but she’s just hit the road with A Bowie Celebration, a tribute show helmed by former Bowie keyboardist Mike Garson. She’s performed as a guest at some of the show’s previous stops in Toronto, but she’ll be touring Europe and North America with it through March is enjoying the opportunity to sink deeper into Bowie’s music than she has before.
“David Bowie is such an integral part of my influence spectrum,” says Jordan, who’s also launched a Rebel Moon whiskey brand to join her Kick Ass Sass wine. “He was so powerful to me when I was 13, 14 years old. I was a huge Bowie fan – until I started having to go learn 31 goddamn songs! (laughs) But the whole panoramic view of his work is just astonishing. It’s just astonishing what that guy did and I’m even more enamored now than I ever was before being asked to do this. It’s completely terrifying – but really, really exciting.”