Bad Shit Is Good For You
An interview with Todd Sharpville (Pt.1)
Words: Vincent Abbate / PHOTOS: Chris Giff, Jennifer Noble
Within the blues world, we talk until we’re blue in the face about axe-shredding guitarists and leather-lunged singers. We admire the proud keepers of the flame and purveyors of tradition. Recently it seems we’ve become enamored with glamour and coolness as embodied by some of the genre’s younger, more marketable stars. There’s nothing wrong with any of that.
But if you ask me (no one has!), what the blues needs most of all is personalities. In other words: artists willing to stand onstage and be real. Musicians who are not afraid to reveal themselves as flawed, fallible human beings.
Take veteran British bluesman Todd Sharpville. At his recent performance in Bonn, Germany – a 90-minute show captured on video – one of the first things he says as he greets his audience from behind a piano is: “This is a song for everyone who’s failed. We’re all fucking human. We all fail at some point or another.” He then proceeds to sing the opening number, “The Blue Standard,” in a voice laden with sorrow and hurt. Yet there’s an undeniable glimmer of hope in his delivery, too.
Just like his outstanding 2022 release Medication Time (an album inspired by his brief stint in a mental institution earlier this century), his recent date with German television revealed Sharpville as a master at conveying moods and emotions. Taking the stage at a mid-sized venue called Harmonie, he and the members of his six-piece band were not out to show the world how talented they are at string-bending and paradiddling. Rather, they had come to make a series of statements about the human condition. Gripping moments from that performance – soon to be released on CD & DVD – include the aforementioned “The Blue Standard,” the stirring “Love Knows No Bounds,” the tortured and harrowing “Medication Time” and the heartbreakingly personal “Won’t Say Goodbye” – cathartic explorations of imperfection, shared humanity, mental illness and grief.