Scott Sharrard, Gregg Allman’s musical director, takes center stage on Saving Grace, backed by Hi Rhythm of Memphis, The Swampers of Muscle Shoals and Taj Mahal singing Allman’s last known original.
The Allman Brothers (Gregg and Duane) created more than just a band, they typified a new genre of music, namely Southern Rock, and built the foundation for an eternal musical legacy, as many of the band members and their scions created successful side projects and offshoot groups. On his fifth solo album, Saving Grace, guitarist Scott Sharrard (pronounced “shur-ard”) continues that mission of purpose after spending nearly a decade as Musical Director for the Gregg Allman Band; co-writing several songs with Allman and earning two Grammy nominations in 2017 for Gregg’s final studio album Southern Blood.
The strong eleven new tracks are an exemplar of the Southern sound of roots rock, blues, soul and classic R&B, focusing on Sharrard’s strong lead and slide guitar work and excellent vocals, supported by a tight rhythm section, spiced with driving horns with lyrics that extol the values, aspirations and excesses of the Southern working-class ethic. Produced by Sharrard with Scott Bomar and Charles Martinez, the sessions took place in Memphis and at the historic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Half the album features the Hi Rhythm Section (Howard Grimes, Reverend Charles Hodges and Leroy Hodges), and the other half with renowned Muscle Shoals musicians, David Hood, Spooner Oldham (‘The Swampers’) and Chad Gamble. The album also includes Gregg Allman’s last-known original, “Everything A Good Man Needs,” a co-write with Sharrard, featuring Taj Mahal and Bernard Purdie on drums.
A funky boogaloo beat from Grimes sets up the opening track “High Cost Of Loving You,” with wails from Sharrard’s guitar ushering in hot Memphis horns, B3 and sweet backup vocals on a Beale Street soul burner. The acoustic driven “Faith To Arise,” features Sharrard’s beautiful slide guitar tone on a gently swaying cover of U.K. songwriter Terry Reid’s tale of a road warrior longing for home. Sharrard breaks it down to the core combo for the dramatic slow soul blues title track, letting his emphatic vocals and soaring lead guitar take center stage. Taj Mahal steps in for the late great Gregg Allman on “Everything A Good Man Needs” the cool burning piece of low country blues fused with Muscle Shoals’ horns that surely was destined for a future Allman album and we are blessed with its release here as a loving tribute to the Midnight Rider.
We return to Memphis for a swinging horn driven 12/8 R&B love song, “Angeline,” that could have come from the Bobby “Blue” Bland catalog, and remain deep in the heart of Soulsville for the lushfully orchestrated ballad “Words Can’t Say.” The bittersweet lyrics of “She Can’t Wait,” stand in contrast to the uplifting groove and ascending horn lines. Sharrard takes us to church for the Gospel fueled shuffle “Sweet Compromise,” and entreats the world to search our collective conscious on the evocative “Tell The Truth,” punctuating his appeal with searing lead guitar. Spooner Oldham handles the piano on the lilting country ballad “Keep Me In Your Heart,” while Sharrard recites the breadth of his love before delivering another brilliant slide guitar solo. His obsession with the birthplace of rock & soul continues on the album closer “Sentimental Fool,” with Sharrard evoking Otis Redding and Steve Cropper leading the Memphis horns and sparkling B3 Organ through a joyous Stax Records inspired finale. The fine album, Saving Grace, from Scott Sharrard will cement his place in the pantheon of American roots and soul music.