SCOTT SHARRARD IS BEST KNOWN as lead guitarist and bandleader for the late Gregg Allman. But his personal artistic journey – which includes singing, songwriting, producing and arranging – began long before he first teamed up with the rock icon. It’s a mission that resumes with “Saving Grace,” Sharrard’s fifth album — and his first since Allman’s death. “Saving Grace,” with the blues at its core, bears a distinctly southern spirit, seamlessly assimilating the sounds of American roots music that Sharrard has long embraced. Sessions took place in Memphis and at the historic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Half the album employs the Hi Rhythm Section, the other The Swampers of Muscle Shoals. Sharrard’s travels to the heart of the American South began in the Upper Midwest. He was born in Michigan on December 28, 1976 – the day his hero Freddie King died – and spent his formative years in Milwaukee, where he was a club fixture long before he could legally take a drink. Then came a chance 1996 move to New York City. The 20-year-old Sharrard, eager to bolt Milwaukee, had his mind on New Orleans. But his friend Sean Dixon, with whom he had a band called The Chesterfields, had found a rent-controlled apartment in the East Village.
Sharrard had been in the Big Apple but a year when he met iconic Atlantic Records executive Ahmet Ertegun, who mentored The Chesterfields and gave the young guitar-slinger some sage advice. The Chesterfields cut three albums and toured nationally before Sharrard began to chart his own course. A series of releases followed, including “Dawnbreaker” (2005), “Analog/Monolog” (2008) and “Ante Up” (2009). Ertegun wasn’t the only legend with Sharrard on his radar back then: The young guitarist also forged a relationship with Levon Helm – performing with The Band drummer about a dozen times, including his final gig just before his death in April of 2012. Sharrard remains close with Helm’s daughter, Amy, and a host of other artists on the Woodstock scene. It was through Amy’s then-husband, multi-instrumentalist Jay Collins – already a member of Allman’s band – that Sharrard embarked on the collaboration of a lifetime. In the fall of 2008, Sharrard began a nearly decade-long run with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Sharrard joined the Gregg Allman Band as a touring guitarist and later became Musical Director. The fruitful partnership ended with the 69-year-old Allman’s death on May 27, 2017. But not before Allman covered Sharrard’s “Love Like Kerosene” on 2015’s “Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA,” and again on Allman’s eighth and final solo album, the posthumous, GRAMMY-nominated “Southern Blood” (Rounder Records, 2017). Another “Southern Blood” track, the unforgettable farewell “My Only True Friend” – co-written by Sharrard and Allman – earned a GRAMMY nomination for Americana Song of the Year.
Sharrard’s deep respect for Allman factored heavily into the 2018 release date for “Saving Grace.” Tracking was completed in December of 2016. But Sharrard – knowing Allman’s health was failing and that “Southern Blood” would be his last hurrah – chose to delay its unveiling. He’s now begun a new chapter with an album he consciously wanted to summarize the last 20 years of his work – and one that showcases the totality of his artistry: as guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, arranger and bandleader.