We were impressed with Sharon Lazibyrd when she shared her EP, Opium of the Masses, just over a year ago. We knew then that the three tracks were just a taste of more to come and, sure enough, we now have an album to enjoy. Half Shame and Half Glory embraces Opium of the Masses and adds further, quirky, relatable stories. Lazibyrd’s style is simple but not naive. Unpolished and under-produced, we hear songs from her heart, recorded near-live. There’s a sense that – any minute – she could reach out through the speakers and take your hand.

Who is “Mr Smilie”? Reclusive. Agoraphobic. Lonely. Lazibyrd spins his tale to cheekily Latin rhythm, showing that even sad songs can be sung happy.

Lazibyrd’s signature single, “Opium Of The Masses”, was the title track of the EP, which was the prelude to this album. It’s still an earworm of a song, light and listenable. In contrast, the title track of the full-length, “Half Shame and Half Glory”, is lilting, rapturous and enchanting. There’s a yearning quality to Lazibyrd’s delivery, which is supported by deliciously rich string arrangements. Speaking of the early days of new relationships, the song asks familiar questions:

“Can you read me like a book, would you like a second look? Shall I try to be shy?”

Rhythmic and relatable “More For Less” explores the political tension between quality and quantity, encapsulated in a wondrously rapid-staccato lyric:

“You can’t do more for less,
Without some consequence,
The rich get more for less,
What happens to the rest?”

Bringing in a simple piano accompaniment, “Winding Road” is a wistful folk-ballad of growing up. Parents of ever-growing children may find a speck of dust in the eye with this one.

“It’s true I cannot walk this path for you
Winding road out there my dear
Though you sparkle like a most precious jewel
The world may tarnish you I fear
The road is yours my dear”

Cheering us up again, “Don’t Worry” is a chirpy offering. With a ’60s Parisienne vibe, supported by accordion and perky percussion, this is definitely one for the happy, summer days playlist.

“What Time Is Later?” is the second transfer from Lazibyrd’s earlier EP. A gem of a song, inspired by 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. Simple and folksy, it’s an ode to the passing of time and urges us to savour every moment.

Stripped-back and spooky, “Blood on Bone” takes Lazibyrd to a place of theatre. Although not the most consumable of her songs, it showcases her storytelling and reveals vocal capacity unexplored elsewhere. There are moments of Kate Bush, but – as with all Lazibyrd’s work – the work remains uniquely hers.

The final track shared with her EP, “Not Blue” is Lazibyrd’s therapy for down days. Shooing away the evil spirits of depression, there’s a battle at play here where happiness wins out in the end. Which is just as well, as the album is brought to a close with a shimmy and a shake in “And They Danced”, another Latin sound, reminiscent of Kirsty MacColl’s Tropical Branstorm.

Offering an eclectic selection of tunes, every one of which hits it’s mark, this is a debut album to be proud of. Alongside Lazibyrd’s naturally engaging vocals and musicianship, the tracks feature an array of super-talented musicians including Damon Bridge, Kate Bridge, Tom Cory, Maaike Sigerist, Leandro Maia, Kent Sibley, Lukas Drinkwater, Damian Clarke and Sharon Lazibyrd’s own dad, Stan Martin.

Half Shame and Half Glory is released on 8th June. Order your copy here. Then catch Sharon Lazibyrd live in her native South West of England and beyond – dates confirmed so far:

8th June Bow Wharf Langport
15th June Kilmington
16th June Kingsbury Community Centre (album launch party with guest musicians and Maaike Siegerist and Victoria Pearce)
17th June Isle of Wight
24th June Midsomer Arts Festival
1st July Croxton Kerrial
25th August Watchet Festival
15th September Priston Festival

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