Tommy Sharp’s debut album, State Street Breakdown, comes right at you directly, like the cars and trucks that whiz down the boulevard that runs past his front door on the north side of town. Underneath the rough exterior of State Street lies the true heart and soul of Hudson. N.Y.: it’s where old meets new, where black mixes with white, and where rich and poor coexist side by side. And it’s where Tommy Sharp’s debut album, State Street Breakdown, was conceived and born, amidst decay, change, and rebirth, reflected in the very essence of his melodies, his lyrics, his singing, and, especially, his guitar.
State Street Breakdown is muscular, bold, and classic – tough on the outside, tender on the inside. It’s got symmetry and proportion; like an old-style LP – it even has a side A and side B, each “side” boasting three songs plus one instrumental apiece. It loosely traces the story of the pain and heartbreak over an unrequited love, and the struggle to keep it together when it seems like all forces are conspiring to tear you apart – the struggle of a heart, a soul, and a city. The struggle portrayed in the song cycle that is State Street Breakdown – and not the least in the title track itself, a guitar instrumental through which Tommy Sharp sings through his instrument with the same achy vulnerability he invests in his songs – is a universal one, but given a very particular flavor and accent channeled through Sharp’s acute musical vision.
Tommy Sharp’s musical lineage runs deep. He was inspired to pick up the guitar after the Beatles made their initial splash on the Ed Sullivan. Late-’60s and 1970s rock runs through Tommy’s guitar-rock like a circulatory system. He shares the approach of singer-guitarists including George Harrison, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler and Prince – like them, he’s an artist who makes full use of his tools – vocal tone and phrasing, melodic and percussive guitar, and words, to paint emotional portraits, variously portraying rise, fall, and regret with staggering directness and heartbreaking urgency. Thus it’s no surprise to learn that Sharp served an apprenticeship with the legendary record producer and impresario Andrew Loog Oldham - who worked with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Marianne Faithfull, the Small Faces, and most notably, the Rolling Stones - and he credits the lessons learned in front of and behind Oldham’s mixing board with informing every aspect of this project.
Seth Rogovoy, the award-winning rock critic and author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet (Scribner), had this to say about Sharp’s debut album: "State Street Breakdown introduces an artist of multiple talents: a singer with raw, organic power and achy vulnerability; a songwriter infused with the sounds and lessons of classic rock, from the garage to the top of the pop charts; and a guitarist who wields the sounds of chords, notes and the metallic ring and twang of his electric instrument with the deftness of one of his artistic and spiritual forebears – the River School painters of Hudson, N.Y. Mostly, though, he puts it all together in such a direct way that he defies you to listen without sharing in his pain, joy, heartache, and generosity of spirit. In that sense, State Street Breakdown is that most human – and humane – gift.”
Produced and recorded by Josh Watson at the now defunct Vessel in Hudson, Sharp was aided by bassist Josh Meismer (Two Gun Man, Mother Fletcher) and drummer Otto Hauser (Vetiver, Devendra Banhart). With the exception of “Dream Awhile,” co-written with Andrew Loog Oldham, and “Dear Lucy,” all words and lyrics are by Sharp. Any similarity between incidents portrayed in his songs and real life are entirely coincidental and probably to be expected.