Shar-Baby - The Blues Is Here To Stay
8 tracks; 32 mins 54 seconds
Style: Traditional Down Home Delta Blues
Ready to go jukin’ in the Delta without ever leaving your home? You want that authentication that true-blues lovers crave from time to time? Here it is: Shar-Baby’s The Blues Is Here To Stay, recorded at Dales Studio in Alabama and produced by James Newport.
I once wrote that some say there’s a ‘lady blues revival going on’. Yet, there have always been pioneering African American female blues singers paving parallel roads with the men. Our female veterans aren’t going through a revival; they’ve never stopped. And add to that list, Shar-Baby Newport, who at age 57 is still bringing it like one of the boys! She’s been influenced by and playing with ‘the boys’ since her 1960s-70s youth.
Another product of the 60s-to-present day gospel-soul-traditional blues movement, Shar “Baby” (a nickname her aunt gave her at the age of 6) is perhaps a name less familiar than those who’ve had greater commercial success. Notice I used ‘commercial success’ vs ‘fan-favorite appeal’ because Shar-Baby’s music and personal stylings definitely may have more appeal than some whose commercial success makes their names more familiar. It’s just that--unless you’ve been jukin’ your way through clubs and festivals from Chicago to Florida to Michigan to Beale Street to Europe--you may not have heard of or seen her. She’s true street savvy real world blues, the kind you’d have to travel to the flatlands and cotton fields of Northern Mississippi or Alabama to replicate.
From her beginnings in the ‘projects’ of South Bend, Indiana to her own band in Pensacola Florida ,Shar-Baby demonstrated early audience appeal by becoming a Pensacola Blues Festival favorite. Next came ‘new’ blues artist nominee, live CDs, more festival circuits and Ground Zero Blues Club—followed by feature articles in Big City Blues Magazine. Overnight success? Not hardly. Then again, neither were Hubert Sumlin and Howlin’ Wolf, her earlier inspirations. Her success is much like theirs—authentic straight-forward honesty with simplistic spine-tingling style that’ll leave one saying, “oh yeah, now THIS is blues and I need more.” And we all know Europe loves our authentic blues talents—so they want to see her too! She’s going on tour there in April & May 2010.
From Track 1’s “Mercury Ford”, Shar sets the tone of a juke joint jam with friends Clarence Bluesman Davis on lead guitar, Jock Webb on harmonica, Albert Billups on drums, and Kenny Webber on bass guitar. Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8 were written by Rosie Brittain and all tracks were arranged and sung by Shar-Baby. Now, having listened to all tracks and as odd as it sounds for me to say this, the slightly out of key ensemble is reminiscent of what you get in the late-night Delta; that’s what makes it familiar and honest (that is, you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever had that ‘Delta Experience’). I’m fortunate to have survived my share of Delta nights in Mississippi, so I’m good with it.
Track 2 is “Alabama”—written by Shar-Baby (as are Tracks 4 and 6). With her deep alto voice, Shar-Baby opens the song with a statement, “This song, called Alabama I wrote, is dedicated to my friend Mr. Willie King” and the harmonica laden 12 bar blues starts a steady rockin’ drive.
Tracks 3 through 6 continue to deliver the same home-style road-experienced Chicago-Delta blues, until you hit title Track 7’s “Blues is Here to Stay”, an emotional dig deep delivery about lost love, accompanied by Tommy Carter on steel guitar and Dale Hicks on sax. The final Track 8 “Harmonica King” is a nice reminder of why you enjoyed Tracks 1-7.
Free of power-chording screaming electric rocking guitar rifts, blues fans know that what might be technically lacking is made up with an abundance of the sound and soul of the original blues musician jams. So if you have a day where you’re missing Chicago, Memphis or Clarksdale, take 32 short minutes for a magic carpet ride with The Blues is Here to Stay.Reviewer Belinda Foster is a Columnist and Contributing Writer for Greenville SC Magazine “Industry Magazine” and former manager of Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues. She books blues-rock-jam musicians and is a devoted promoter and supporter of live blues roots music and history, making frequent trips to “The Crossroads” and Clarksdale Mississippi, birthplace of the blues. Her column “The Upstate Blues Report” can be found on line at www.mega-scene.com.