Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase Sharon Klein

Sharon Klein

"I've always been fascinated with cultures other than the one I was born into," says Sharon Klein. "When I was a kid my mom subscribed to National Geographic, and we had a big world map on the wall. I'd look up at the different areas on that map and say, 'I wonder what it's like there' and 'I wanna go there.' So I guess that's where my obsessions with travel and foreign and indigenous music really started. I just really love meeting people from other backgrounds and learning their stories."

It's those stories, along with her unshakable musical wanderlust plus the very human faces of the characters in her compassionately personal songs that resonate so strongly throughout The Way Back Home, Sharon's profoundly moving debut album. An evocative, image-rich set, the recording, which was made in Israel and upstate New York, visibly captures the far-reaching scope of its maker's travels. Using mainly acoustic instruments the release takes the listener on a journey through the arid deserts of the Middle East to the verdant mountains of Appalachia and the sun-swept plains of Andalusia. As the players. furtive fingers shuffle and dance artfully on guitar and various other Western and exotic string, wind, and percussion instruments, Sharon's vivid words offer precious snapshots of the often desperate lives and struggles of the unheard.

A fingerstyle guitar master who also plays Middle Eastern oud and other ethnic stringed instruments, Sharon's self-described romance with the guitar family began at age eight with lessons from jazz great Joe Monk and, later, school field trips to Carnegie Hall concerts by Andres Segovia and flamenco king Sabicas. She discovered Middle Eastern music during her college years on an Israeli kibbutz and in the 1970s studied raga singing in New York under Pandit Pran Nath, alongside minimalist composers Terry Reilly, LaMonte Young, and Jon Hassell. After attending recording school she moved into studio work, producing and engineering others and composing soundtrack material for "Saturday Night Live," CBS Sports, and several films. In the '80s Sharon performed with the underground rock bands Network and Scandals.

"I have a journalistic approach to songwriting," says Sharon. "I'm not so into writing about myself, like most singer-songwriters. My songs tell stories through the eyes of others; they.re like little novelettes." Among the poignant story-songs on The Way Back Home are "Borders of Stone," about a day in the conflict-ridden West Bank, and "Noura," the narrative of an Afghani child bride who escapes her hellish circumstances only to see her homeland destroyed by war. The sole purely autobiographical track is the title cut, which examines the world standing of her American birthplace while using the saga of her ongoing travels as a metaphor for self-rediscovery.

Among Sharon's fellow musical voyagers on The Way Back Home, which the singer produced and arranged herself, are Bob Dylan/Levon Helm sideman Larry Campbell, on mandolin, and four-time Grammy Award-winning percussionist Glen Velez. The disc has drawn advance praise from another Grammy recipient, guitarist Al Pettaway. "It's a brilliant collection of songs," he raves. "Both the playing and writing are just superb."

While The Way Back Home so lucidly chronicles Sharon Klein's journeys thus far, it's also a journey unto itself one whose ancient, mystic moods shift constantly like desert sands; one that weaves together the heartfelt yarns of its subjects like a richly colored tribal rug. It's a journey listeners will want to take again and again.
 Way Back Home on Amazon

Sharon Klein appeared in the March 2011 Songrriters' Showcase

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