When Blame Sally takes the stage at Lodi Lake Park on Sept. 6, you can be sure at least two things will happen. First, the quartet will showcase tunes from their five studio albums. The second thing that will invariably occur is the audience will rave about the music they’ve just heard. That’s simply the way it’s always been with Blame Sally.
Consider, for example, just a small sampling of what’s already been said:
“Back and forth motion of the head. Continuous tapping of the feet. Eyes half closed in a near euphoric state. There is only one group you can blame this on: You got it!!” -Gene Shay/WXPN Philadelphia
“The band’s four-part harmonies should not be missed. Don’t blame us if you’re the last on your block to check out Blame Sally.” -Performing Songwriter
“Collectively they create multihued sonic and emotional tapestries, recalling the artful romanticism of Jane Siberry, the rich folk harmonies of the Indigo Girls and the percolating soulfulness of Joy of Cooking.” -San Francisco Chronicle
“Blame Sally has one of the most powerful word-of-mouth success stories I’ve heard in recent years. It’s like they came out of nowhere and suddenly, everybody wanted to tell you about them.” -Rock critic Joel Selvin
“One of the finest bands in America right now, like a folk-based U2.” -San Diego Troubadour
Quite probably, a third thing will also happen: Blame Sally’s vital, original sound will inspire so many disparate comparisons – they’ve been likened to everyone from the Indigo Girls to the Dixie Chicks, and from the Wailin’ Jennys to Radiohead! – that the uninitiated will have no choice but to check them out and hear it for themselves.
Blame Sally has always been impossible to pin down with clichés and conventional wisdom. Each of the four women put her individual career aside to start Blame Sally when they were in their late thirties and forties – the age at which bands are traditionally supposed to break up and begin solo careers. And, obviously, this is an all-female band, albeit not a “girl group” in the traditional sense, those usually being the novel province of youthful upstarts, not mature singer/songwriters.
Formed in 2000, Blame Sally – Pam Delgado (percussion and vocals), Renee Harcourt (guitar, bass and vocals), Jeri Jones (guitar, bass and vocals} and Monica Pasqual (piano, accordion and vocals) – realized early on “that some of the things that might have been considered liabilities were actually assets,” says Pasqual, “and that in truth, the very thing you might be thinking you should hide or isn’t going to help you is something that people are excited about.”
Within a year of their formation, Blame Sally was already receiving radio airplay on KFOG, the popular Bay Area radio station, then on XM Radio – Severland hit No. 1 on XM’s “Starbucks Café” in 2007. Before long they were playing larger venues and attracting increasingly more sizable audiences, including a co-bill with the legendary Joan Baez in June 2009 at Stern Grove in San Francisco, where they played for 13,000 people. Their first two self-released albums, Live No. 1 (2001) and the self-titled Blame Sally (2004), increased their audience and by 2007?s Severland (Dig), they were regularly receiving ecstatic reviews. Writing about that release, All Music Guide said, “Severland is the quartet’s strongest and most cohesive album, the first on which they sound more like a proper band than four solo artists working collectively.”
Severland followed a period during which the band underwent some serious reflection – in 2006 Harcourt was diagnosed with and successfully fought breast cancer – and was itself followed by Night of 1000 Stars (2009, Ninth Street Opus) – commemorated by a sold-out performance at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts – and Live at Stern Grove (2010 Ninth Street Opus). After a successful collaboration with Grammy Award-nominated producer Lee Townsend on Night of 1000 Stars, Blame Sally opted in 2011 to self-produce Speeding Ticket and a Valentine, in hopes of more faithfully capturing the edginess of their live dynamic.
As has often been noted about Blame Sally, this is an outfit that boasts not only strong compositional and vocal skills, but serious instrumental chops as well. “I don’t think there are that many well-known women singer-songwriters who are that good on their instruments,” says Pasqual. “Ani DiFranco, Bonnie Raitt or Tori Amos, yeah, but they’re often backed up by men. So people do get surprised when they see four women playing really well. It crosses a lot of gender and age stereotypes, too; people who are just into music all really relate to that.”
Indeed, people “really relate” to Blame Sally, and that is the key to their broad appeal. “There are a lot of people,” says Harcourt, “who become really connected to us, and fascinated by ‘Ooh, what’s their story?’ We’ve had fanatical fans in their forties, and plenty of young girls who’ve been super into it.”
“That’s not everything,” however, Pasqual points out. “If we were coming out and our music sucked, or it was not vital-sounding, I don’t think that people would be like, ‘Oh, cool, they’re in their forties,’ or whatever.” “But they’re digging what we’re doing, and they’re seeing that it’s fresh and that it has life and originality.”
Life and originality — who could ask more out of music?