Elliott Sharp’s Terraplane, Sky Road Songs

Dan Ouellette

By Dan Ouellette

on 12.18.12 in Reviews
Gleefully getting down and gritty

Naming his blues-beyond band after icon Robert Johnson’s first single (“Terraplane Blues”), guitarist/leader Elliott Sharp periodically breaks away from his more cerebral Lower East Side experimental projects to gleefully get down and gritty. While many blues-driven bands today merely recycle tradition, Sharp genuflects briefly, then pitches into the future with electronics and a variety of textures on his seventh Terraplane album, Sky Road Songs. It’s a fully-fueled electric blast produced by Joe Mardin, the talented son of Arif, who even contributes a topical tune (he sings the “Banking Blues,” which hauntingly shows up again as a redux hidden track). Eric Mingus (Charles’s renegade son) and Tracie Morris take turns firing the vocals in addition to penning some of the compositions, but it’s Sharp’s showcase here both an as inspired leader and compelling six-stringer. Underappreciated (and in many circles unknown) as a guitarist (he also blows alto sax and bass clarinet and throat sings), Sharp lets the sparks fly on the chugging “Endless Path,” lights up a blistering lap steel on the “Off the Hook” instrumental (one of three in the 13-pack), and slide bends notes on such tracks as the plaintive cooker “I Blame You” and the funky-toned “Down on the Block” delivered on a resonator guitar. The special treat is the guest appearance on the low-down blues “This House Is for Sale” of Sharp friend/guitar hero Hubert Sumlin, who passed soon after. Sky Road Songs is appropriately dedicated to him.