Todd Sharpville – Medication Time
12 songs – 64 minutes
Guitarist Todd Sharpville has never been shy about sharing his personal torment on record, teaming with producer Duke Robillard in for Porchlight, an emotion-packed, two-CD pleaser that was written after the deaths of both his father and marriage. The rollercoaster thrill ride continues in this long-awaited follow-up, which details the agony he experienced because of the ensuing separation from his beloved daughters, an event that literally landed him in a mental hospital for two months.
Despite the grim prospects exemplified by the title of this disc and its poignant cover photo, however, there’s plenty to cheer about in grooves guaranteed to lift your spirits when all’s said and done. Not only does Todd reunite with Duke, but he joins forces with harp player Sugar Ray Norcia and guitarist Larry McCray, too, while infusing a lot of good humor in his lyrics as he describes his eventual triumph over his past sorrows.
A London native and the first royal ever to choose a career in the blues, Todd’s the younger son of the 3rd Viscount St. Davids and a family peerage that traces back to the 13th Century. But he’s as down-to-earth and hard-working as any commoner thanks to a grandfather who squandered away the family fortune. He fell in love with the blues first through Freddie King and then a host of others before being mentored as a teen by Joe Louis Walker.
He’s been a fixture on the European blues scene since 1992, when his debut album, Touch of Your Love, took home album of the year and top guitarist honors in the British Blues Awards. He subsequently began put together bands to back American artists touring the Continent – a list that includes Ike Turner, Hubert Sumlin and Byther Smith, and he’s worked steadily with all of the giants of the international blues and rock scenes ever since.
Engineered by Jack Gauthier and Duke directing the action behind the scenes at Lakewest Studios in West Greenwich, R.I., Todd’s backed by Bruce Bears on piano, Brad Hallen on bass and Mark Teixeira on drums – Robillard’s all-star touring band — in a lineup augmented by Doug James (baritone sax), Mark Earley (tenor sax), Carl Querfurth (trombone) and Jeff Chanonhouse (trumpet). A friend for 30 years, McCray called Todd daily at the height of his troubles, shares duet and six-string on one track and sings backup on another before Norcia shares the mic and provides on harp on a tune, too.
An unhurried take on Bob Dylan’s “Walk Out in the Rain” sets the tone as Sharpville’s rich, mid-range pipes suggests to his lady that she should simply stop crying and lying and leave if things don’t feel right. It explodes in intensity as the full band joins in about 45 seconds after the subdued open. A parallel horn flourish and guitar run open the rocker “Get Outta My Way” and kick things in high gear as Todd chooses to split instead. His stellar single-note extended solo soars before the horns take over mid-tune.
The singer’s torment truly surfaces in the ballad “Tangled Up in Thought,” which finds him so troubled, he’s unable to sleep and deep regret about who he might have been. “House Rules,” a seemingly upbeat shuffle, finds him at the end of the relationship and falsely believing he can set things right by putting his foot down and demanding change before the horns kick in and McCray joins the action for the funky complaint, “Brothers from Another Mother,” which simply rocks.
Sharpville hits bottom in the minor-key ballad, “Medication Time,” in which he acquiesces to treatment for his condition and begins to find his center in the blazing rocker, “God Loves a Loser,” in which he admits that “when hope is a stranger, anguish is my best friend before he teams with Norcia on a blues-drenched cover of Mark Knopfler’s familiar “Money for Nothing,” which singles a return to reality.
Todd’s ghosts from the past start to fade in the languishing ballad “Silhouettes” before he finds he feet again in “Stand Your Ground,” a second-line send-up that urges others not to retreat when he throws love their way. A take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Red Headed Woman” sings praises with gals with fiery locks before another – sweet – ballad, “I Don’t Need to Know Your Name,” stresses to a new lady that time and love will heal both the future and the past no matter what’s transpired before.
A winner on all counts, run – don’t walk – to buy this one.