To be counted among the names Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Dan Toler, Warren Haynes, Jack Pearson, Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring must be an incredible feeling. Although not ever a member of The Allman Brothers Band, Scott Sharrard is nonetheless the final player in that elite lineage of celebrated “Allman” guitarists.
Sharrard lit up the Gregg Allman Band for the final nine years of the star’s life. For half that time, he was the trusted musical director. By the evidence here, he sharpened his talents to diamond brilliance during his tenure. “Saving Grace” is Sharrard’s fifth album, and it marks the advent of an artist with so much more to offer than just magnificent guitar playing. Sharrard also sets himself apart as a writer and arranger of genuine expression; as a musician with a keen ear for benchmarks, but relentless drive toward independence; and as a spirited bandleader in the company of some true heavyweights (renowned Swampers David Hood on bass and pianist Spooner Oldham among the many).
Perhaps most of all, Sharrard steps to the fore as a soul singer approaching greatness, his warm, engaging tone and supple range lifting every song. Sharrard wrote or co-wrote them all, save an undeniable rendition of Terry Reid’s uplifting “Faith to Arise.” More than a few, particularly the languid, comforting “Words Can’t Say,” and effervescent “Sentimental Fool,” sound like timeless classics. Moods and modes stream by effortlessly. “Tell the Truth” rollicks and rolls, “Angeline” jumps in a coat of funk, and “Saving Grace” ingrains itself as if a profound dream.
Smartly, the songs cut at Muscle Shoals’ legendary FAME Studios, and the ones in Memphis with the illustrious Hi Rhythm Section, are intermixed. So “Tell the Truth” from Memphis comes off forceful, horn-fueled, and Stax-like, yet ideal next to the lovely “Keep Me in Your Heart” from FAME, with its deeply Southern gospel groove and alternately weeping and swooping guitar.
Sharrard’s affinity with the Allman camp beams from his strings, always with equal measures of admiration and ingenuity. He actually played Duane Allman’s Les Paul at the FAME session, the effect palpable, and stunning. He also introduces “Everything a Good Man Needs,” a commanding serving of rhythm and blues that he wrote with Gregg Allman — likely Allman’s last composition — during the sessions for Allman’s bittersweet “Southern Blood.” Former Allman band members and drummer extraordinaire Bernard Purdie join Sharrard and special guest lead vocalist Taj Mahal for the exclusive number. Their combined impact pays perfect tribute. Watch Mr. Sharrard rise and blaze trails. And rest assured, the Allman name will live well in posterity by virtue of such prodigious advocates as he.
— Tom Clarke
- Scott Sharrard
Release: Sept. 21, 2018