Monday, July 25, 2022

Todd Sharpville - Medication Time

Let’s get one thing straight right from the start.  Medication Time is a blues album, not a blues-rock album.  Oh, it rocks’n’rolls a fair bit, but this ain’t no heavy, heavy monster sound.  At the same time though, Todd Sharpville doesn’t restrict himself to yer common or garden blues knitting patterns either.
For example, there are four ballads on the album, but Sharpville is in no danger of getting stuck in a slow blues rut.  Only the last of them, ‘I Don’t Need To Know Your Name’, really comes over
Todd Sharpville, tangled up in thought
Pic by Al Stuart
 as a conventional slow blues, and even then it still leaves its own romantic mark.  But ‘Tangled Up In Thought’ cleaves to a more soulful vein, to which Sharpville really does justice with his excellent, emotive vocal, over strokes of organ and sparse chimes of guitar.  Meanwhile 'Medication Time' itself is a dramatic ballad that sounds to me as if it has as more in common with Gershwin than Stevie Ray Vaughan.  And ‘Silhouettes’, with its minimalist delivery, feels like a downbeat meditation in an old-fashioned, smoky jazzy styling.  All four of these slowies, though, feel like genuine quality.
It’s this kind of range that allows Sharpville to keep the pot boiling for more than an hour, across 12 tracks (even if a few do linger at the out door longer than necessary), whereas many an artist would be treading water several times along the way.
In the simplest upbeat mode, ‘Get Outta My Way’ under three minutes of horn-inflected rock’n’roll, but these notes wot I have wrote say it’s brisk, danceable, catchy and infectious.  In fact, taking into account Sharpville’s stinging solo and a warbling sax break, you might say it’s irresistible.  The single ‘Brothers (From Another Mother)’ swings perfectly down a similar bluesy road, with great horns and the added attraction of Larry McCray, totally in sync on both the guitar and the vocal "blues hound" vibe.
‘House Rules’ though, is a more relaxed offbeat shuffle, with witty lyrics trotted out from the perspective of an old-fashioned male chauvinist pig.  But if ‘Stand Your Ground’ also shuffles along, it’s with a New Orleans, second line funk inflection, with Hispanic piano touches, and some vituperative words.  ‘God Loves A Loser’, meanwhile, takes a more direct route, with driving guitar and bass as the backing for a tale in which “Hope is a stranger, anguish is my best friend”.
There are three covers, and two of ‘em work a treat.  The album opens with Dylan’s ‘Walk Out In The Rain’, coming over like the Stones in laid back mode, though Sharpville’s voice, with its throaty quality, owes far more to Ian Siegal than Mick Jagger.  ‘Money For Nothing’ – yes, that one – pulls off the difficult trick of an imaginative treatment that’s actually down to earth, as the 80s megahit is given a harp-rasping Chicago blues reading, with a guest turn by Sugar Ray Norcia.  Only Springsteen’s ‘Red Headed Woman’ doesn’t really hit the mark, with its lurching rock’n’roll arrangement, though Sharpville’s rockabilly solo is still worth a listen.
Much of the material on Medication Time originates in Sharpville’s reflections on a period, some years ago, when he succumbed to a breakdown and needed treatment for severe mental health issues.  The resulting lyrics are sharp regarding both the downs and the ups of that experience – and the music lives up to them.  I didn’t really know what to expect from either Todd Sharpville or Medication Time.  What I got was a damn good, original blues album.
 
Medication Time is out now on Dixiefrog Records, distributed by Proper Music Group in Europe.

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