SHARON LAZIBYRD – Half Shame And Half Glory (Trampoline TRL002)

Half Shame And Half GlorySharon Lazibyrd first came to my attention in 2013, disappeared for a while and returned with her single, ‘Opium Of The Masses’. It felt at first like a rail against consumerism but the more you listen, the deeper it seems to go. Like many of her songs it makes you think as you unpick her poetry. It’s also the second track on her debut solo album, Half Shame And Half Glory. Sharon Martin emerged from Lazibyrd, a duo with Tom Chapman who released their only album, Under The Sky, five years ago, hence her nom de plume. She writes, sings and plays ukulele, violin and viola and when I reviewed Under The Sky I described her as “misanthropic, sociopathic, paranoid and despairing for the fate of humanity” – just my sort of person, in fact. I think she has mellowed a little since then.

The opening track, ‘Mr Smilie’ is particularly intriguing and typical of Sharon’s more enigmatic style. There are enough clues to tell us that it’s a true story about a clockmaker but not enough to reveal the whole story and I’ve spent far too long scouring the interweb without success. There is something innocently sexy about the title track and I unreservedly apologise to Sharon if that isn’t what she intended but I still like the song.

It’s back to politics with ‘More For Less’ melded with a tune, ‘Good Friday’. Like all the songs it’s cleverly crafted; in this case with pizzicato violin, accordion and percussion. ‘Winding Road’, with Stan Martin’s piano is, I think, a mother talking to her child but it could be something else. From there we move to the bouncy, reggae rhythm of ‘Don’t Worry’. With accordion and trumpet it has all the hallmarks of a radio hit – if it ever gets airplay.

I’m still unravelling ‘What Time Is Later’; it could be a philosophical statement or a love song and I’m sure that ‘Blood On Bone’ is in the latter category. It’s nice to hear Damian Clarke’s hammered dulcimer again. ‘And They Danced’ employs Latin rhythms and until the end it is love story – but then there is a twist. I’m guessing it’s based on a myth but once again Sharon doesn’t give us quite enough information to pin it down. It’s clever songwriting but damned infuriating.

Welcome back, Sharon. Half Shame And Half Glory is an album I really like: unconventional, quirky even, but with plenty to draw you back to puzzle out another line or two.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘What Time Is Later?’ – official video:


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 23SAILING STONES is the name by which Irish born, London-based Jenny Lindfors plies her trade, the digital self-produced, self-released ‘Telescopes’ her second release, piano, brass and mellotron coming together for an atmospheric five-minute electro-folk reflective ballad about learning what love is and means that seems sure to garner yet more Laura Marling comparisons.

Singles Bar 23‘Opium Of The Masses’ is the new single from SHARON LAZIBYRD. Sharon plays ukulele which gives the song a deceptively light opening but which is quickly overtaken by a much bigger arrangement, including a gorgeous piano passage, featuring Damon and Kate Bridge and Tom Cory. This is a powerful song about consumerism and pressure to conform to market forces. And no, Sharon, it’s not just you.

Singles Bar 23A Norwegian Americana trio comprising Mari Sandvaer Kreken, husband Tor and Kjetil Steennaes, DARLING WEST lay the ground for next year’s new album with two singles, ‘After My Time’ and ‘While I Was Asleep’ (Ja), the first a strong combination of psychedelic folk, pop and swirling Appalachian influences, while the other foregrounds mellotron, harmonica and mandolin for a mid-tempo folk pop number that perhaps suggests a middle ground between First Aid Kit and Lady Antebellum. The respective B-sides, the dreamier ‘Someone Like You’ and the banjo accompanied, and to my mind, catchiest number, ‘The Sweetest Tune’ both easy on the ear, melodic mid tempo ballads that should raise anticipation for the album.

Singles Bar 23There’s some nice finger-picking and slide guitar on You’ve Been Away So Long, the new EP from ALICE HOWE. A lot of the guitar work is down to Jeff Fielder but the songs are all Alice’s. The opener, ‘Homeland Blues’, is a catchy song with a heavy country vibe belying the fact that Alice is from Boston and the record was made in Seattle. ‘Make A Fool Out Of Me’ is a country waltz with contrasting hard-bitten lyrics and the title track is a lovely atmospheric piece.

Singles Bar 23Although curiously not mentioned in the press release, MARK OLSON was, alongside Gary Louris, co-founder of seminal 80s Americana outfit The Jayhawks, quitting in 1995 to join then wife Victoria Williams in The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, subsequently reuniting with Louris for their duo album Ready For The Flood and, eventually a Jayhawks reunion. Since 2007, he’s also had a solo career and now he and wife Ingunn Ringvold, the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, are readying their second album together. As a taster, he’s releasing the jangling, chords cascading ‘Dear Elizabeth(Glitterhouse) paired with the equally tumbling backwoods folksy ‘You Are All’. If the rest of the album matches these, it should be a real treat.

Singles Bar 23More country-pop comes from JESSICA LYNN’s EP Crazy Idea which was produced by Patrick Hamilton at Globe Studios in Belgium. She’s been dubbed ‘the new Shania Twain’ and she sure has a powerful voice and big band behind her – that must be Steven Wright-Mark playing the screaming lead guitar on ‘After Party’.

Singles Bar 23Where do bands get their names from these days? THE ANATOMY OF FRANK are a trio from Charlottesville, Virginia and, ahead of their latest album South America, they release a single ‘Holy Mountain’. Nice finger-style guitar and ethereal voices: it is a song about death and loss.

Singles Bar 23Neil Wardleworth used to be in Steel Threads, a band we rather liked. Now he’s teamed up with Harriet Brooke McDonnell in HARRIET! who have a debut double-A side single on both CD and vinyl. ‘Just Sign’ is heavy without being overwhelming and features Harriet’s lead vocals while ‘Those Three Words’ presents a (slightly) more acoustic duet. Nice one.

Singles Bar 23SEÁN KEANE sings ‘The Coast Of Labrador’ composed by Brendan Graham and Denis Carey as part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary and now available from iTunes. The song is set during the period of Irish emigration and tells of a young man who finds a new life with an Inuit girl and eventually teaches his son to play hurling on the ice. Who knows what that might lead to?