Linda Sharar Player

 

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Linda Sharar
ANY SECOND STREET
Rock Road Records

Linda Sharar is at the age where friends are birthing children and loved ones are passing away. For an artist first experiencing sudden loss, it can be emotionally devastating. Ironically it can also lead to high level art. Any Second Street is a worthy follow-up to Participate, not only musically, but in the context of her own personal maturing process. I interviewed Sharar over the phone many years ago and still feel frustrated I never got to that inner part of who she is. Who she is, is an intelligent talent who feels deeply about things other than her own specific angst. Yes, she will use her experiences as a starting point, but always there is a universal focus, a genuine caring for the outsider, the insecure, the victim.

In pieces like Come To Life, I Know Your Worth, Fire In The Coals, Arturo's Sons and Daughters and Last Words, her compassion and humanism dominate. She is a melodic cheerleader, a frustrated idealist, a positivist, whose message of adaption, reinvention, doing whatever is necessary to improve one's situation is unwavering. Even in the face of stark cruelty, Sharar believes in people, their strength and resiliancy.

Her soothing, harmonic singing is balanced with stinging guitar (Ian Kennedy) and Dave Mattacks' percussion. Unabashedly romantic in Was That Me?, she conveys quiet resignation elegantly, aided by Tom Halter's smoldering trumpet, and Mike Rivard on acoustic bass. A love affair that perhaps existed only in her head gives this:

'How do you grieve a non-memory / the promise of love unfulfilled / extending your arms / aching for warmth / but left to the night / and the cold and the chill...'

She thanks Nathan Thompson for co-writing and so should we.

Her understated anger and irony fill God Is Good, sung through gritted teeth. Stephanie Winters' cello embellishes the mood, which conveys a sense of helplessness at tragedy and loss. You Center Me is such a beautiful poem to true love; even after they've parted she has something to return to in her mind to give her reason to cope. Dean Steven's powerful, yet simple Old Man In His Garden has a familiar, though still effective metaphor of flora vs. humans accepting mortality with dignity. That's a word that can be ascribed to the closer, Last Words, and to Sharar herself.

'Do not be careless with those who take risks / to show you generosity / 'cause it's not a weakness to lend forgiveness / or yield to love's velocity.'

Being vulnerable is part of being human, as is trusting, reaching out, sharing. The randomness of misfortune only makes life more precious. Simple, elegant, emotional. That is Sharar's handprint.

Linda Sharar
ANY SECOND STREET
Rock Road Records

Linda Sharar, a gentle voice for these troubled times. ANY SECOND STREET is the Rock Road records debut release from this East Coast singer/songwriter. This is just what we need to hear right now. Even the title is a timely echo of what we are all feeling. As Linda explains it, she lost a couple of very close friends over the past few years. Nearly everyday she finds herself driving down Second Street in her Boston-area neighborhood. In a thoughtful play on words, she refers to the fragility of life with the title, ANY SECOND STREET. It can happen at any second. Amen.

Since the music fits my mood these days, I hope that doesn't cloud my judgment. But I did listen to this CD before 9/11 happened, and even then, I was impressed with this tasteful blend of light folk rock. The sound is sort of Indigo Girls (with one less girl). Much of the credit might belong to Producer Tom Dube. His subtle touch gives this album a depth that becomes more obvious with each play.

At the core of it all, are the songs. Sharar keeps it basic, but still says so much. The CD opens with 'Come To Life,' an optimistic call to embraceable arms. The sound of the approaching snare drum makes you sit up and take notice. And when Sharar penned 'God is Good,' she thought she was writing about the aching pain of the loss of a loved one. But listen to the lines "God is good. God is strange. Shall we thank him for our pain." Think about that lyric as you reflect on the events of recent times.

And now a word about Camp Hoboken. Sharar was a member of this loosely organized co-op of artists and musicians based in Hoboken, New Jersey. They were quite active in the mid-nineties in writing and teaching and learning from one another. Linda was definitely paying attention in class. On a personal note, I met several of the campers a few years ago while I was attending a memorial concert for a dear friend in Hoboken. They are a sweet and peaceful people. On another personal note, after the concert, I remember spending several minutes sitting on my car in a Hoboken parking lot, just staring at the New York City skyline. No more needs to be said about that.

If you pin me to the mat and force me to list my favorite cuts on this record, I would include the above-mentioned tracks and 'Ninety-Nine Years.' For reasons that are obvious to Linda and me, that cut would be at the top of my list. The late Don Brody, one of the founding members of Camp Hoboken, wrote it. He and Linda's sister, Connie Sharar were The Marys. If you have a stack of back issues of MBL lying around, check out my 1998 best CDs of the year list to learn more about the Marys. 'Ninety-Nine Years' is the story of a man who is condemned to live in a dream, a dream that always ends. But it's the opening line that reaches your soul. 'I used to live for the moment.' We all did.

BOTTOM LINE: ANY SECOND STREET is a collection of contemplative songs set to a blend of light pop with a pinch of jazz flavoring. And it's all rooted in folk. There is much more here than first meets the ear. We have a tendency to turn to our folk singers at times like these. Will Linda Sharar still sound so right in another year? Count on it. Talent lasts.


RESPOND COMPILATION SPOTLIGHT: "A third worthy facet of this 27-track effort [the Respond Compilation] is the exposure it affords new faces (Linda Sharar, Lori McKenna, Jules Verdone) as they take their place among rising stars Jennifer Kimball, Merrie Amsterberg, Barbara Kessler) and noted artists from the region (Patty Larkin, Catie Curtis, and Juliana Hatfield), all of whom make fine contributions herein. ....Indeed, Sharar's "Any Kind Of Love," McKenna's "Fireflies," and Verdone's "Turnaround" are songs that can launch careers." .... (Jan 23, 1999)

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