If ever there was a performing artist that could make me severely regret opting out of grade school music nerd extracurriculars prematurely, it is Shara Worden. Today marks the U.S. release of her new album All Things Will Unwind. This past weekend, I saw Shara play in Brooklyn at combination gallery/performance space Littlefield and needed to restrain myself post performance from searching through the yellow pages for some sort of adult education band camp program.
Shara, who goes by the stage name My Brightest Diamond, seems to be exactly that unto herself: a vow she made early on to spend a lifetime honoring her own (vibrantly) gold standard of musical prowess. She was born right outside Detroit, MI to a church organist mother and a national accordion champion father (!), who kept the house awash with the sounds of highly evolved musical tastes (everything from tango, gospel, and motown to classical, jazz, and opera). Shara wrote her first song at age three, spent the childhood years succeeding playing piano, singing in church choir, and experimenting with musical theater. Come college, she shipped off first to Texas and then to Russia to study opera. Upon graduating, she made the move to New York City where her classical training made the acquaintance of the avant-garde rock scene.
For this weekend’s release party/ performance, Shara played the show dressed in orange from head to toe with bundles of foliage-colored tulle wreathed around her neck and arms, a sort of abstract evocation of bird and clown that was completely fitting considering the chorus of songbirds that is her vocal range and the cabaret style delivery that trademarks her performance . Regarding musical accompaniment, Shara’s band mates for All Things Will Unwind are actually members of their own separate musical enterprise, a young, critically acclaimed chamber music ensemble called yMusic. Throughout MBD’s set--and this is where my music lesson dropout guilt started to kick in something fierce--these young maestros masterfully (and playfully!) rotated through the whole canon of concert band classroom instruments. In addition to the foundational guitar/bass/drum kit triad, yMusic delivered on flute, piccolo, trumpet, viola, banjo, and even french horn. That list excludes the instruments played by Shara herself (for this show in particular she switched back and forth between ukulele and autoharp, though she is plenty capable of playing far more than just those).
All Things Will Unwind has been aptly knighted My Brightest Diamond’s coming into herself album. Over the course of writing it Shara experienced the death of her grandmother and the birth of her son. This crossroads at the extremes of human experience seem to have illuminated to Shara the places in which--amongst her life and musical pursuits--she ought to loosen or tighten her grip. Instrumentally, the album keeps faithful to the textures of Shara’s classical routes, but gets experimental by way of rhythmical genre-hopping (think symphony orchestra score bent to beats running the timeline from American march to hip hop). Lyrically, Shara firmly addresses the importance of commemorating unsung heroes/ being brave and proactive amidst the turbulence of worldly injustice, but relents to (and at times actually celebrates) the hard-to-swallow truth that her emotional life's struggles and mistakes are wholly archetypal, that it really takes a lifetime to learn how best to live.
My Brightest Diamond will be back in New York this December (performing with The National!). Be sure to get acquainted with All Things Will Unwind before the tickets sell out (as this album will cause your person to unwind into a heap of Shara Worden-worshiping love yarn right quick).
--Maggie Beauvais, BUST's Girl in the Field