Scott Sharrard – Saving Grace | Album Review

Scott Sharrard – Saving Grace

We Save Music WSM-001

11 songs – 51 minutes

The lead guitarist/musical director for the Gregg Allman in the final decade of his career, Scott Sharrard picks up where the founder of Southern rock left off as he delivers an outstanding collection of soulful blues- and roots-driven music here.

But that should come as no surprise for anyone familiar with Sharrard, who received two Grammy nominations for tunes he co-wrote with Allman for Southern Blood, Gregg’s last studio album. This one was recorded in Memphis, New York and at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. It features a lineup of several of the biggest names in the music world, and never disappoints as it flows as it delivers nine originals and two covers.

This is the fifth solo release for Sharrard, a Michigan native who was born on Dec. 28, 1976, the same day that his all-time favorite musician, Freddie King, died. Raised in Milwaukee, Wis., he cut his teeth on Luther Allison, Hubert Sumlin and others locally before relocating to New York as an adult, where he was a member of The Chesterfields, who were signed to Atlantic Records and mentored by Ahmet Ertegun himself.

Sharrard went solo after the band released three albums, worked occasionally with Levon Helm and joined Allman fulltime in 2008. As a leader himself, Scott has always shared Gregg’s vision of fusing blues, soul, jazz and folk into his own sound. And that comes through clearly in the grooves of this one.

About half the cuts here feature the Hi Rhythm Section — Howard Grimes (percussion), Reverend Charles Hodges (keyboards) and Leroy Hodges (bass) – who’ve been producing hit records since being the house band behind Al Green and Ann Peebles in the ‘70s. The other cuts feature David Hood (bass), Spooner Oldham (keys) and Chad Gamble (drums), prime movers in the Muscle Shoals sound. Also making guest appearances are Taj Mahal and legendary percussionist Bernard Perdie.

Rounding out the sound are Eric Finland and Pete Levin (keyboards), Marc Franklin (trumpet), Art Edmaiston and Kirk Smothers (sax), Moses Patrou and Steve Potts (percussion), Brett Bass (bass), Jesse Munson, Yennifer Correia and Wen Yih Yu (violin), Jennifer Puckett (viola), Jonathan Kirkscey (cello) and Susan Marshall and Daunielle “Pie” Hill (backing vocals).

It’s full-force Memphis soul-blues for the opener, “High Cost Of Loving You,” which features Sharrard’s warm, powerful voice and rock-solid, stinging guitar work as it details the problems in a relationship. Scott turns to acoustic slide for the slow blues, “Faith To Arise,” penned by British rocker Terry Reid. It’s an ode to home delivered from the point of view of a musician on the road.

The title tune, “Saving Grace” gives Sharrard plenty of space to show off his voice. It’s a ballad that sings praise of a woman who always saves the singer from himself. A cover of Allman’s “Everything A Good Man Needs” – a tune Gregg planned for an ill-fated future release — follows before the Memphis flavor returns with the love song, “Angeline.” A medium-paced, stop-time shuffle, it’s a new tune with a true old-school feel. It flows smoothly into “Words Can’t Say,” a beautiful love ballad with full orchestration, before “She Can’t Wait,” a bittersweet send-up that revisits the cheating theme as it deals with paying the price for a part-time love affair.

“Sweet Compromise” comes across with a gospel feel before the orchestra returns for the sweet “Keep Me In Your Heart.” The disc concludes with “Sentimental Fool.” A new tune, not the Roxy Music classic, it brings you home with another big dose of old-school R&B feel.

Somewhere on the other side, Gregg Allman’s beaming as he listens to this one. This one’s been at the top of the charts since its recent release. Available through Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and other outlets, it’s a delight.

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