Our ancestors once passed on their tales of caution, woe and political angst through the form of ballads, a theme explored in Half Shame and Half Glory. Throughout her new album, Sharon Martin – aka Sharon Lazibyrd – uses this tradition with her messages of modern life mixed in with foot-stomping, gypsy-folk tunes.
As its name suggests, Half Shame and Half Glory tackles head on our conflicting emotions in our day to day lives – all delivered through vocals reminiscent of music halls, cheerful ukuleles and passionate violins. Sharon Martin invited an array of musicians on board for her debut solo outing – which even included her own father! Having others along for the ride is evident in the delightfully whimsical sound, with many of the tracks being the aural equivalent of walking through a field of wildflowers with sunbeams on your face.
Half Shame and Half Glory dives straight in with the cautionary tale of ‘Mr Smilie’. Mr Smilie has known both love and heartbreak with Sharon bringing this character to life through traditional accordions and, despite the sadness which Mr Smilie has to endure, it’s hard to be drawn too far down when ukuleles are involved.
An album of ballads would not be complete without politically charged protest songs. ‘Opium of the Masses’ and ‘More For Less’ tell us what to expect from the title alone, before we even hit the play button. Although the title is lifted straight from The Communist Manifesto, ‘Opium of the Masses’ also pays homage to Tolkien with the lyrics embedded within the solemn violins. ‘More For Less’ does more to release Sharon’s political dismay at the powers that be, and demands that we pay attention – “Now listen to my story…” she tells us, before jaunty violins and rhythmic tambourines keep pace with her tongue-twisting vocals.
Half Shame and Half Glory isn’t just an outlet for political anger, gentle pianos can be found on ‘Winding Road’ which is a touching ode to maternal love. ‘Don’t Worry’ is a sun-fuelled track, reminiscent of Lily Allen’s early work, with spoken-word style vocals. Whilst ‘Blood on Bone’ takes us down a gothic path, ‘And They Danced’ closes the album with fun spontaneity with scattering vocals and a rhythm which will have you whirling around the room.
Sharon Martin has packed her debut full of hidden delights, igniting a free-spirited passion with each listen. Through her stomping ballads which wouldn’t be out of place in Fiddler on the Roof, Sharon not only delivers her truth, but causes her listeners to realise their own.