Maia Sharp occupies fertile ground on her Concord debut, gathering strands of R&B, pop, and jazz and tying them together with her talent as a singer/songwriter. It many ways her eclectic approach harks back to a number of Sharp's early-'70s influences, like Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell. These influences, along with her saxophone work, even evoke the sound and style of these artists. While this may make her difficult to categorize in a contemporary market, it doesn't make her difficult to enjoy. Her airy vocals are buoyed by full, though non-busy, arrangements of electric guitars, saxophones, and percussion. The album opens with "Crimes of the Witness," co-written with the singer's father, Randy Sharp. While the song dates back to 1998-1999, lyrics like, "You pray a prayer and pledge allegiance" strike a contemporary note of patriotism in the summer of 2002. Sharp, however, is more concerned with society's have-nots than with jumping on the bandwagon. Cuts like "Long Way Home" and "Sinners" gravitate closer to traditional singer/songwriter material, concentrating on the ups and downs of relationships. Sharp avoids the usual clichés of the genre, though, by casting a broader net, seeking to universalize the personal. She also writes songs with a strong sense of melody, meaning that a listener can enjoy them even without the lyric sheet. "One Good Reason," for example, with its lovely violin and deeply felt vocal, is achingly beautiful. All this is to say that this album can work in a number of ways: as a fine batch of songs, a solid singer/songwriter effort, or a collection by a lovely vocalist. Whichever category one prefers, Maia Sharp offers something fresh and pleasing.
Maia Sharp Review
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.