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Shar-Baby – Shar-Baby’s 11 O’Clock Blues

Digitdoc Records 2011

11 tracks; 46.31 minutes

Sharon Newport’s nickname came early, courtesy of her aunt Rosie Brittain who was dating Little Walter at the time. As well as that connection to the blues, little Sharon came from a musical family, listened to blues and R n' B as she grew up and has been playing blues for over 40 years, yet for many of us, myself included, she is little known. .She has been sparsely recorded over that period until she made an appearance at the Coin Blues Festival in Spain and met the folk at Digitdoc Records in the UK which in turn led to this recording being released. The CD was recorded back home in Birmingham AL with Shar-Baby on vocals and rhythm guitar, Jaydog on drums and Tim Boykin (who also engineered the session) on lead guitar, bass and keyboards. She plays mostly around her local area but has appeared twice in the UK and has plans to come back over again to the UK in 2012.

Although the CD has so few players, the sound is fine. Shar-Baby has a very pleasant voice, expressive without any hint of the raucousness which some female blues singers seem to strive for. All the material on the CD is original, composed by Shar-Baby herself. The one exception is the lyrics to “The Stalker” which come from the pen of her aunt Rosie Brittain.

The material here covers a good range. For instance “Pick In My Pocket” is a fast paced piece about playing the guitar for a living with a real country feel to the guitar solo. “Cause I Love Ya” is a soul ballad, beautifully sung by Shar-Baby and featuring a ringing guitar solo with lots of echo. Another fine ballad is “Remember When” where Sharon’s singing is excellent on a song about her early years in the blues business: “I wish I could be there again, playing all night. Everybody’s having fun, it was out of sight.” Shar-Baby’s rhythm guitar finds a figure that could have been Peter Green’s back in the day and a lovely cascading solo from Tim highlights the middle section of the song. “The Stalker” with its storyline of threatening behavior is more menacing, the basic rhythm embellished by occasional trills from the lead guitar. I felt that a harp would have further added to the sinister feel of this one, but it is still very effective.

There are a couple of familiar titles here, but “Busted” and “I’m Ready” are not the Ray Charles or Muddy Waters songs. “Busted” is a chugging shuffle about finding the evidence of a lover’s infidelity: “Caught in the act, why did you do me like that? Now you’re busted. Only man I ever trusted, now you’re busted”. “I’m Ready” has both Shar-Baby and Tim Boykin cutting loose on their guitars on one of the more strident cuts on the CD. “Alabama Bound” has a nice country blues feel to the playing on a song about getting back to Alabama “where the blues is going down”, a tribute to Sharon’s adopted home of Birmingham.

It’s also nice to hear some touches of humor in the songs. “Red Eyed Snake” is not about the wildlife of Alabama but a warning to the girls to avoid some undesirable guys. Hubert Sumlin’s playing comes to mind when hearing the intro to “Beer And Atmosphere”, a cautionary tale of how having too much of a good time can have dire consequences back home!

It looks as if Shar-Baby has a future in the UK but it would be good to see her name mentioned more often back home in the USA. This CD should enable that to happen with its balanced program of music and clear production. I am now looking forward to seeing her live in the UK next year.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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