It isn't very hard to engage Dave Sharp, guitarist for The Alarm, in interesting conversation.
Just one quick question about almost anything and he's off on his stories of travels and his pursuit of perfect music.
A complex figure, Sharp has taken a brief hiatus from his band to perform some solo, acoustic shows. He will be at Max's On Broadway tonight for a special show.
"All of the rest of my shows have just been me and a guitar," Sharp said. "But the show at Max's will be different because three of my hillbilly friends from New Jersey will be coming down to lend me a hand."
Dubbed The Barnstormers, this trio consists of just a few of the dozens of friends Sharp has made while driving around America in his car since last April, when The Alarm's last tour ended.
"It got to the point where [singer] Mike [Peters] and I felt the music was being compromised by the schedule," Sharp said. "It started to get run by a bunch of managers and agents and contracts. We never felt comfortable with that so we said we'd take five minutes and catch our breath before we started recording again. We didn't ever want to feel like we were going through the motions."
So Sharp arrived in America from Wales "literally with a bag and a guitar" and began to search out Manhattan for song ideas.
Touched by what he called the "wonderfully wonderful ups and the awfully negative downs" of the metropolis, he wrote 30 songs, threw a couple of guitars in the trunk and played virtually any place that would have him.
"I'm doing bars, restaurants, clubs, coffee shops and a lot of fund-raisers," Sharp said. "I make a hundred bucks here or there, just enough to get some breakfast, fill up the gas tank and buy some guitar strings. Whatever it takes to get to the next town."
He took time off last fall to record and produce another album with The Alarm. Called "Raw," it will be released April 23. He then went into the studio with The Barnstormers and a friend named Bob Johnson to record his first solo album, "Hard Travlin'," which won't be available until July 31.
Well, Sunday he'll grab a plane from New York back to Wales to begin rehearsals for The Alarm's spring tour, which begins in mid-April and is expected to stop in Baltimore in early May.
"I really feel great about the way things are going," Sharp said. "In both my solo stuff and The Alarm material we've stripped away all of the bull. It's bare-bones, rock-this-dive rock and roll and it means something."
The concert calendar . . .
Also coming to Max's are 24-7 Spyz (Sunday), Koko Taylor (March 14), The Samples (March 19), Urban Blight (March 21), The Aquanettas (March 23), Tanita Tikarem ( April 4), Henry Rollins (April 9) and An Emotional Fish (May 8).
Hammerjacks has Cyndi Lauper (Sunday), Todd Rundgren (March 13) and Sam Kinison (March 23).
Sting and Concrete Blonde appear at the Capital Centre tonight.
Paul Simon will be at the Baltimore Arena Tuesday and at the Capital Centre Wednesday.
Painters Mill welcomes the Kentucky Headhunters (March 16), the Bulgarian State Female Choir (March 31) and Cocteau Twins (April 1).