UK Bluesman Todd Sharpeville' mentored by Joe Louis Walker and others, and having impressed the likes of B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin and Duke Robilliard and played with the likes of Van Morrison, Peter Green, Georgie Fame and the reformed Yardbirds, has a new recording produced by Duke Robilliard, "Porchlight" (MIG Music). This is a double CD with about 82 minutes or a a song or two more than could have fit on a single CD. The recoding serves well to showcase his considerable abilities as a songwriter, vocalist and musician.
Sharpeville is literally a ‘blueblood’ who plays the blues having been born into one of the UK’s oldest, titled Aristocratic families, and his late father was Viscount St. Davids with him the “Heir Presumptive” to these family titles. A budding blues career was interrupted when his marriage collapsed and he suffered a nervous breakdown after being separated from his children, leading to a long court battle for contact to his children. His own experiences inform a number of the songs on "Porchlight" and their is a real authority in his vocals in part from singing about things so personal. He is a fiery guitarist characterized by a strong focus in the development of his solos and riffs behind his vocals.
The opening " If Love Was a Crime," has some fine harp from Kim Wilson to help with the tune’s atmosphere as a one-person horn section as he insistently sings the memorable line,”If love is a crime she’s got me doing time for sure.” The humor of the title for "Lousy Husband (But a Real Good Dad)," is a bittersweet lyric based on his experiences as he declares “He’s gonna lose his house, honey ain’t that the truth; So who thinks its fair to take them children too?,” and he trades solos and fours with Robilliard with Bruce Bears adding some rollicking piano here. The bleakness of mood is reflected in "Used," with his line of “The black hole in my heart’s been widening all my life,” set against an insistent riff as he lets go the demons of being used by the system and used by friends.
"Why Does It Rain," is a ballad where Sharpeville pleads that he is down on his knees with Doug James and Carl Querfurth among the solid horn section. He puts so much heart into his performances, but at the same time he is able to cleanly articulate his lyrics as well lay down a searing guitar solo. His mix of passion and precision stands out throughout the 13 tracks here. Toss in a biting bit of contempt towards Tony Blair and George Bush on "Can’t Stand the Crook," with its Ten Years After hyper-drive tempo and Wilson wailing on harp and Sharpeville taking a few scorching unaccompanied boogie riffs. A crisp second-line groove helps lend the more optimistic mood of "Everything Will Be Alright," with its message of times may be hard but in end everything will be alright.
Joe Louis Walker joins in " When The Blues Come Callin'", another lyric from one wizened by experience in romance as he tells her “You play me like a sucker woman, put on your waterworks; And make me change my mind …” with Walker adding biting stinging notes behind Sharpeville’s fervent singing and taking the first solo with the two trading choruses at the end. Shel Silverstein’s "If That Ain’t Love What Is?," is the one number Sharpeville did not pen with the caustic irony of its lyrics dealing with “if you’d rather be with him than me; than you’re a stupider bitch than I think you are …” Another interesting is his paean to the larger lady, as he wants a "Whole Lotta Lady," to keep Todd warm at night. The title track is a touching song showing the great love he had for his father.
“Porchlight” contains 15 strong performances that show Todd Sharpeville to be a significant talent. His music is thoughtful but full of emotion and producer Robilliard has surrounded him with strong backing resulting in a terrific recording full of personality and compelling performances.
A publicist provided the review copy of this.