Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Hard Traveller




Thirty years down the line, Dave Sharp now has a top repertoire of his own songs. Some of these refer to his time spent in America where he played alongside many of the big names. His lyrics reflect a troubadour tradition that goes back to Woody Guthrie, in fact some of the songs are what could be called updates on old Guthrie songs.

When you hear a song like his 'Hard Travellin' for the first time, especially if like me your music roots go back to the American folk tradition, it is hard not to be moved by the resonance of the lyrics: the poor are given comfort through religion, there are references to the 'last fair deal' and to a 'vision of the nation'. Guthrie himself wrote a different 'Hard Travellin' and lived that life, travelling around America, championing the oppressed, singing for his supper.

Dave Sharp's version contains some terrific imagery:

Desert roses far from water... three ravens rising, two rivers raging... and so on.

His voice has certainly mellowed since the Alarm days, and has that 'been around' edge that only constant gigging and Marlboros can produce. He is of course living the legend of the hard traveller, gigging all over the country up to four times a week at small venues. He has a particularly strong following in Scotland and Wales.

It is fair to say his overall performance at these gigs - I have seen three of them this year - puts most other solo acts in the shade. I don't see many if any guitarists with his flatpicking skills and I see a lot of guitarists.

I am looking forward to his new material with a new band. The CD should be out in a few months time. Meanwhile you can catch plenty of his stuff on youtube both the more recent solo material and his work with The Alarm. It is worth noting some of the comments by youtube viewers many of whom refer to him as a greatly underrated guitarist, as the engine or powerhouse of the Alarm and so on.

Try to listen to his 'Looking this world over' or to my own favourite 'Mexico'. Great songs. His eponymous website has a long list of gigs to come this year.

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