Rock and Soul Music
Top Song Picks: The Mask, Beloved NOTE: Morris Freeman sings lead to 'A Change Gonna Come,' which appears on a YouTube video. Sharp plays slide guitar, organ and tremolo guitar on same song. Label's Description: Dave Sharp has released an 18-song album entitled Rock and Soul Music, on Odessa Records. The album includes 13 originals and five cover tunes. It features Sharp on lead vocals, lead guitar, harmonica and keyboards. Several musical genres are covered from twangy 60's rock to screeching blues guitar, with a hint of 60's style R&B, and a couple of acoustic guitar folk-style compositions. The instrumentation frequently evokes memories of the 60's through extensive use of electric and acoustic 12-string guitars, harmonica, and lots of melodic vocal harmonies. Sharp plays rock guitar in the tradition of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, but the overall sound has a Byrds/Tom Petty/Beatles feel with close vocal harmonies, jangly 12-string guitar riffs sprinkled with hints of Sam Cooke. Sharp takes the listener on a roller coaster ride of sounds and mental images that include romantic love songs, raw blues, anti-war themes, terrorism, drug cartels, spiritual songs about life, moral courage and the hereafter, mostly within the musical framework of what Sharp calls "rock and soul music." The most commercial pop/rock song on the album is probably The Mask. Sharp's existential lyrics and mellow voice are supported by rich melodic harmonies and the band's driving rock edge. Sharp sprinkles subtle electric 12-string guitar riffs behind a rhythm acoustic guitar. The arrangement is pulled together by Morris Freeman and Scott Harlan on drums and bass, respectively. The song Beloved is receiving praise among preliminary listeners. Beloved has spiritually uplifting lyrics with sparse instrumentation behind Sharp's gentle lead vocal and Morris Freeman's backup harmony. Instrumentation is two acoustic guitars where Sharp fingerpicks chord changes on a 6-string and overdubs single note lines on a 12-string. In many ways this is a guitar player's album. Rock guitar lovers will notice Sharp's guitar screeching solos on The Lies, Run to the Light and False Prophets. Sharp displays jazz sensibilities in the instrumental jazz classic 'Round Midnight, by Thelonious Monk, where jazz-rock fusion is incorporated in a manner that evokes playing styles of legendary guitarists like Jeff Beck and the late Roy Buchanan. Sharp also displays adeptness on the electric slide guitar on A Change Gonna Come and I'm a Man. Drummer Morris Freeman sings lead on A Change Gonna Come with Sharp playing Hammond organ and Gretsch guitar chords (using a Fender amp "vibrato" effect) in the background, then launching into an aggressive slide guitar solo midway through the tune. Sharp plays a hard-driving blues harmonica in I'm a Man, the Bo Diddly tune covered by the Yardbirds in the 60's. Best Friend is an example of Sharp's ability to play and sing the blues to a driving funk backbeat. Guest keyboard player Cleve Wehle adds a lot of soul to this tune. (Wehle is a member of the Catfish Hodge Band.) Angel and Ask Me What's Love are old fashion love songs, but drummer Morris Freeman sings lead on Angel, a tune pinned by Sharp and presented in a 60's R&B style. The track is laced with impressive vocal harmonies, Stevie Wonder-style harmonica, thumping piano, rich Hammond organ and a 12-string electric guitar playing lots of arpeggio riffs. Alone Today is a haunting pop song full of percussion instruments behind an acoustic rhythm guitar and Sharp's jazz-inspired acoustic guitar solo. On this track Sharp is backed by two guest musicians, drummer/percussionist Tim Jarvis, and bassist John Previti (former bassist for the late Danny Gatton). Jarvis and Previti are joined by keyboard player Dennis Monk on Ask Me What's Love. Three songs have a subtle anti-war theme (The Mask, Whatsoever, False Prophets) and incorporate a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar. False Prophets has an interesting guitar solo that begins with undistorted 12-string electric single notes, then breaks into a distorted 12-string lead with lots of double notes riffs and a unique sound. Run to the Light is a driving rock song that tells the story of a fictitious terrorist attack on a Naval ship where a "sad man" is tried, convicted and ultimately put to death, despite many unanswered questions. The lyrics are easily overlooked because of the strong rock guitar work and tight musical arrangement. Another song, Silver or Lead, has a country-folk quality, but the lyrics were inspired by a book about Mexican drug dealers whose motto was essentially "work with me and you'll get silver; defy me and you'll get lead." The song is not about drugs per se, more about corruption in general, and how seemingly impossible criminal deeds can go undetected if people involved are relentless enough. Again, the lyrics can easily be overlooked on this one because it's such a catchy tune and the musical delivery is very tight. Two songs have historical relevance. Old Virginia is a haunting ballad about Sharp's home state (lyrics by David Martin, music by Sharp). It has a patriotic quality which begins with a military-style drum role behind Sharp's 12-string acoustic guitar as the vocals begin and band gently gets in the groove. Abram's Freedom Road is a song that tells a story about the Civil War, of how brother fought against brother in the bloodiest war in America's history. The song is intentionally played with instrumentation found in the Civil War period, complete with harmonica, acoustic guitars, even a fife. It's the true story of Sharp's great-grandfather, Abram Sharp, who lived in a Confederate community in West Virginia, but was inspired to join the Union army by the plight of his father's slaves. Abram's own brother, Peter, fought for the South, and the two men never again spoke. Abram was shunned by his community, even locked out of his church by the so-called Christians. After the war he found relatives of two older slave women, formerly owned by his father, and personally escorted them to North Carolina, on horseback, to be reunited with their family members. The album is lightened up with two 60's sing-along tunes, Any Way You Want It (by the Dave Clark Five) and Go Now (first hit by the Moody Blues). Any Way You Want It features Scott Thompson on lead vocal with Sharp and Freeman singing supporting harmony. Of all the songs on the album, Any Way You Want It was recorded virtually live - no click track, no layering except the band tracks were recorded first and the vocal tracks were added later. The rhythm section for most tracks consists of Morris Freeman on drums and Scott Harlan on bass. Backup vocalists are Morris Freeman, Scott Thompson, Paris Mann, and Dave Sharp. Guest musicians are John Previti (bass), Tim Jarvis (drums and percussion), Tom Noone (drums), Dennis Monk (keyboards), Cleve Wehle (keyboards), Scott Thompson (2nd guitar on Old Virginia and Silver or Lead), Steve Lavignito (sax), and Andy Gary (sax). Over the years Sharp has performed as a side man for various Washington, DC-based bands, including 'Blind Date Blues' who performed at the State Theater Falls Church, Virginia (April 2002) as an opening act for Mike O'Meara's 'Blues Crap Band.' O'Meara is best known as former co-host of nationally syndicated radio talk show, The Don and Mike Show. Sharp performed in the 90's with 'Problem Child,' who played several shows at now defunct Arlington clubs, Bad Habits and Whitey's. Sharp played extensively with Teezin' in Southern Maryland throughout the 90's. Most of the songs were recorded at Golden Sound Studio in Kensington, Maryland. All songs were mastered at same studio. Sharp has recorded two CD's in the past: Clinging to the Truth - Tribute to JFK (1993) and Step Outside of the Darkness (1994). Sharp's website is http://www.davesharpandfriends.com.