Contemporary folk draws influences from all over, and none more so than the work of Sharon Lazibyrd, previously one half of duo The Lazibyrds. Calling on musicals, music hall and everything from Julian Cope to English folk, Sharon’s EP Opium Of The Masses showcases her beautifully naive vocal style, layered, traditional arrangements and compelling story-telling. It’s no surprise to find that she has an enviable track record of live performance, across the UK and in Ireland, including Glastonbury and Tolpuddle. Her trophy cabinet also holds the South West Music Awards Best Folk Act.

Opening track and signature single “Opium Of The Masses” is a cheeky earworm of a song. Be warned – to hear it once is to sing the hook line all day. Sharon explains that the lyrics “arose from a conversation that led to a reflection on our needs, wants and delusions”. Although it addresses universal themes, the presentation is light and listenable. Featuring Damon and Kate Bridge (Owl in the Sun) alongside Tom Cory (Bare Knuckle Parade), the underpinning is surprisingly complex, yet delivered with an ease that demonstrates consummate musicianship.

Some songs are inspired by tiny moments. The ability to capture these gems marks Sharon out as a truly gifted songwriter. “What Time Is Later?” may consider the meaning of time and its passing, but it’s also a question that Sharon’s daughter asked at Purbeck Folk Festival, no doubt trying to work out how long she needed to wait for a treat or event. A simple little vocal melody, the song features Sharon adding ukulele to her voice, with Damon and Kate Bridges making a further appearance on piano, accordion, violin and backing vocals. Beyond the philosophy, there’s warmth in the words too “All that I know dear and all that is true is I want my laters to be spent with you”.

If you’ve ever found yourself dealing with troubles that won’t seem to get back in their box, “Not Blue” is Sharon’s song to empower you. She explains how she “…imagined my frustrations as evil spirits that could be chased away”. Sharon’s voice may not be tuned for fierceness, but – from the strength in her delivery – those evil spirits probably didn’t hang around too long! “Not Blue” features Lukas Drinkwater (Jacob and Drinkwater, Ange Hardy) alongside Damon and Kate Bridge. Sharon credits their exquisite instrumentation on a broken shoulder which gave her time to work on the arrangements, so she clearly finds a silver lining in any cloud, as she says to her woes “you can’t have me…you’re not going to stay!”

Whilst many EPs are more like mini-albums, this three-track selection is a perfect amuse-bouche of Sharon’s solos. We won’t have to wait too long for the main course, as she is currently recording her keenly anticipated debut solo album, Half Shame and Half Glory, at Orchard Studios in Somerset, England and expects that it will be released in spring 2017.

Opium Of The Masses is released on the 24 March 2017 as a single and a limited edition physical EP. Order your copy here, and catch Sharon on the festival circuit in 2017 including Fanny’s Meadow, Keynsham Festival and Bridport folk festival.

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