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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

Blues for the Ladies

Kentucky-bred singer directs advice and inspiration to loyal female fans.

October 08, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

She's a hillbilly singer out of Kentucky with a voice larger than the Bluegrass State. B.J. Sharp, a singer of brash blues songs between R-rated asides, just might blow the windows out of the Cafe Voltaire when she makes her Ventura debut Friday night.

The fortysomething Sharp, who can hang with any living blues singer, released "Never Felt No Blues" late last year. The album features mostly originals, backed by a stellar band including guitar players Miles Joseph and Alan Mirikitani. These days a Woodland Hills resident, Sharp has plenty to say about everything, some of it even appropriate for a family newspaper.

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So did you make enough money off your last album to make Madonna a loan?

Oh, baby, if I had a dollar for every guy who ever told me he was going to make me rich, we could move to the South Pacific and never work again.

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When can we expect another CD?

We'll be going into the studio soon. It's going to be called "Second-Hand Woman," which is about all those women who have been rode hard and left.

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So women relate to your stuff?

Sure. I get a lot of women who come to my shows that tell me I say things they don't have the nerve to say. I'm their hero, but I'm not one of those man-haters. So you're 40 and you've baked all those cookies and shipped the kids off to college, but you're not done yet. If I can inspire them, make them forget for a while or give them food for thought, then it's all worth it. I wish somebody would've told me this stuff when I was young.

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How did you contract your case of the blues?

You know, my whole family's from the South, and my grandma grew up working in the fields. When I was a kid, she would sing all those old blues songs. My grandma was very gifted. I started singing in the Southern Baptist Church, so I always had that influence. I was never into the Beatles. I was never a top-40 girl, and as I got older, I could only do what I could do, and that was the blues.

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So what's your take on the blues?

Well, some of those blues Nazis don't think it's real unless it's traditional, but I don't buy that. I'm just a hillbilly chick. There's all kinds of blues--Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, Delta Blues--but I guess mine is Southern gospel-influenced. Maybe it's traditional blues, but I do it my way so it's more of a contemporary blues.

Everyone gets the blues. It doesn't matter what you own, what your address is or who you are. And it's not always about a man or a woman. I can get the blues if I run out of toilet paper. I just write about stuff in my life from a woman's point of view.

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So the blues biz is booming?

What Johnny Lang is doing and what Bonnie Raitt has done have really helped. Some people have said the blues thing is starting to take a dip, but I don't wanna believe that. Music is definitely changing again. All this folk stuff going around, and swing, who knows how long that will last? But the blues fans will always be there.

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How's the L.A. blues scene?

I lost my mother recently, so lately I've been singing a lot. That's the kind of thing you don't even know how to deal with. I found my first husband with his head blown off, and that sent me off to California. I had an incredible tour lined up for the summer, but my mother got sick, so I had to cancel the whole thing because you've only got one mother. If the tour wasn't meant to be, then so be it.

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What do people misunderstand about the life of a musician?

We're not like other people, Sometimes, people want to make you feel bad and I find myself defending myself. There's morning people, but I'm a night people. If I work until 2:30 seven nights in a row, hey, don't be calling me before noon, OK? A lot of people can't believe I have kids. I clean the commode, I cook, I do all that stuff. I've had seven ugly husbands and three ugly kids--that's enough to give anybody the blues.

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What was your strangest gig?

I played at a Polish wedding in Chicago, about 10 years ago, that went on for two days. They hired us for two days. They ate and drank constantly, and after two days of nonstop partying, it got physical. The mother of the bride knocked the mother of the groom into the drum set. People were doing it in the freezer while the waiters were serving the 40th meal. It was too much.

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So what's The Plan?

I just signed a new management deal, and not with my husband, either. He's just along for the ride. After Vonda Shepherd in "Ally McBeal," they've wanted to use more singers, so I've been auditioning for some television shows. I also wrote a sitcom, which I'm pitching to Paramount. It's called "B.J.'s Blues" and it's about a woman who works days as a hairdresser in the Curl Up & Dye Salon and at night tries to make it as a blues singer. It's really funny.

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Your bio mentions that you can make something called grits casserole. What's that?

Hey, baby--that stuff is the bomb. A lot of people think grits are just buttered kitty litter, but you have to know how to cook it.

BE THERE

B.J. Sharp, Friday at 9:30 p.m., and the Bum Steers at 7 p.m., Cafe Voltaire, 34 N. Palm St., Ventura. $4; 641-1743.

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