Rebby Sharp

In One Mouth & Out the Other

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Backed by a pretty sharp backing combo -- Shimmy-Disc main man Kramer, Fred Frith, and Tom Cora among them -- on her one album, Rebby Sharp comes up with something engaging itself. It's little surprise that In One Mouth & Out the Other appeared on Shimmy Disc in the first place, given Kramer's fascination with/appreciation of archly thoughtful art rock. It's not that Sharp is trying to be Dagmar Krause or anything, but in line with labelmates Lida Husik and Ann Magnuson she has a solid sense of theatrical, witty music shot through with politicized undertones. Her voice, sometimes wounded and wistful, is well suited for songs like "Some Men" -- almost an elegy for a '30s-era union set in post-Reagan days -- while the crumbling noisy humor of "Sittin' on Top o' the John" shows another side to her. There's a sense of childlike whimsy as well throughout the album, given Sharp's higher register, and the nursery rhyme quality of "Up Jump Chair Legs," and the public service announcement (of sorts) "The Harmfulness of Tobacco" reflects that. Combine that with the gratifying sense of range throughout -- reference points could be anywhere from 1925 to 1985 and back again depending on the song -- and In One Mouth is a showcase effort and a half. For all the various guest turns, Sharp's own musicianship also shines through the most, with her work on mandolin and banjo the most consistent (and consistently ear catching) throughout. Most of the songs are originals, but one cover is a doozy -- Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," transformed into "Hard Acid Rain," a vocal/piano-only effort made to sound like a crackly, mysterious Appalachian ballad from a century back. All this well before the alt-country/O Brother, Where Art Thou? fascination with such things, and further credit to Sharp's individual ear.

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