It’s the time of year for saving money!
While I was going through a recent stack of CDs this new one by a composer-singer named Maia Sharp jumped out at me. And as I’ve dug down a bit into her background, I am surprised I’d never heard of her before… but then, I shouldn’t be surprised as it takes moments like this sometimes to connect with a musician who has been bubbling under the radar a bit.
Beyond liking her husky voice, the key thing here is that Maia Sharp is a really good songwriter. While Sharp really doesn’t sound anything like her, the nearest comparison I can think of vibes-wise are certain post country-western recordings by k.d. lang.
I poked around the web a bit and learned that Sharp has a strong track record already and has been recording since the late 1990s. According to the wiki, her songs have been recorded by no less than Cher, The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Kathy Mattea and Paul Carrack. She has Collaborated with Carole King, Jules Shear and Art Garfunkel, among others.
Her official bio is a bit stunning and worth resharing verbatim:
“Maia Sharp wears many hats. She has had her songs recorded by The Chicks, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Keb’ Mo’, Cher, Edwin McCain, Terri Clark, David Wilcox, Art Garfunkel, Lizz Wright, Paul Carrack, Lisa Loeb and more. She produced Edwin McCain’s album Mercy Bound (429 Records) and two songs for Art Garfunkel’s retrospective double album The Singer (Sony). And through it all, Maia has continued to record her own albums. She has six solo releases, a collaborative project with Art Garfunkel and Buddy Mondlock Everything Waits to be Noticed and her latest duo project Roscoe & Etta, with writing/production partner Anna Schulze. Each release has led to extensive touring throughout the US and UK and appearances on Mountain Stage, Acoustic Cafe, World Cafe, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” CBS Early Morning and the Today Show to name a few. Maia is also an adjunct professor at NYU for the Summer Songwriter Workshop and she has been writing for Songwriting with Soldiers since 2017 where active duty service members, veterans and/or their family members are paired with professional songwriters in a safe and inspiring environment to share their experience and turn it into a song.”
Pause for a moment to take all that in…
Ok, so Maia Sharp isn’t a “new” artist but she’s new to me and chances are she’s new to you!
So, here on her latest album which comes out this week, Mercy Rising, Sharp has crafted some terrific melodies with strong hooks and memorable lyrical turns. The moody production aesthetics on this album makes it a quite interesting and compelling listen. And it is just this tasteful sonic palette of muted drums, distant pedal steel guitar, maybe a subtle chugging electric guitar and even orchestral strings at times which set the stage for Sharp’s word’s of longing and heartbreak to jump out and grab you.
For example, there is some clever wordplay going on in the third track on Mercy Rising called “Backburner,” one of the singles pre-released off the album: “… its a hell of a way to say turn the flame up higher, when I put you on the backburner you set the place on fire…
And I do love the bitter kiss off of “Nice Girl” where she resolves to move on in a dark lyric that would make Morrissey smile: “you’re gonna make some nice girl miserable some day…” The bridge in that song is a classic pop songwriting convention that works so well in elevating this tune beyond the typical country western conventions.
“You’ll Know Who Knows You” has also been pre-released as a single (click here)
Many of Maia Sharp’s albums are streaming on Qobuz (click here) and Tidal (click here) in CD quality if you have a subscription. I know I’ll be checking out more of her music soon. Apart from the pre-release singles, this new one isn’t streaming anywhere just yet but keep an eye out for Mercy Rising being release in early May.
There will be a vinyl version coming as well so as soon as I get my hands on it I’ll be sure to update this review.