Maia Sharp has built quite a career in the nearly 20 years since she was first came to the attention of the well known record exec Miles Copeland in 1997. She’s acquired all sorts of accolades along the way, and even managed to participate in a superstar summit of sorts when she joined Art Garfunkel and Buddy Mondlock for an album entitled Everything Waits to Be Noticed. In addition, her compositions have been recorded by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Cher, the Dixie Chicks, Keb’ Mo’, Lisa Loeb, Trisha Yearwood, Jessie Baylin, Paul Carrack, Terri Clark, Kathy Mattea, Edwin McCain, Lizz Wright, Kim Richey, Joey Ryan, Mindy Smith, and David Wilcox, among the many. She’s also made her mark as a producer, sitting behind the boards for recordings by McCain, Garfunkel, and herself as welll.
Sharp describes her new album, The Dash Between the Dates, also her sixth to date, as a concept album. “I was trying to look at things with a wider-angle lens and bring more breadth to the songs without sacrificing the intimacy,” she’s been quoted as saying. “Maybe that’s the concept.”
That may be the case, but the thing that stands out once again is Sharp’s keen sense of melody, from the snappy start up of “Nothing But the Radio”, to the lightly lilting “You Know Where I’ll Be”, and the meditative contentment of “I Don’t Want Anything to Change”. Indeed, Sharp manages to be seductive and saucy while also avoiding the crass attitude that so many young artists feel is so necessary to attract attention these days. When, on that aforementioned opening track, she implores her would-be lover to take his shirt off and make love with the radio on, it’s sexy in the most subtle way, enhancing the allure of the ideal romantic respite with an articulate sense of style. The same can be said on the title track that follows, an eloquent rumination on love, life and humanity that strikes at the heart of her humanity. It’s truly lovely, as is the sweet ballad “Underneath,” the chipper tempo of “You’re Alive”, and the exquisite and emphatic “Little Bottles.” When Sharp sings about the need and desire for “Real Love,” no further convincing is necessary whatsoever. So too, when she offers the promise of “Maybe Tonight,” the anticipation for what could be an awesome encounter couldn’t be greater.
For all her acumen, credit should also go to Sharp’s talented team of collaborators. Among them,her longtime co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Linda Taylor on guitars, bass, keys, and programming; Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, who co-wrote and plays guitar on “Maybe Tonight”; Lizz Wright, who adds her harmonies to “You Know Where I’ll Be”, and “I Don’t Want Anything to Change”; Gabe Dixon, who sings back-up on “Underneath”; and veteran vocalist Arnold McCuller, who contributes to “Nothing But the Radio,” “Phoenix”, and “Real Love.”
The fact that Sharp has stated that the album was written during a period of extreme writer’s block makes this album all the more remarkable. If, in fact, the album took longer than originally intended, it’s clear the results were well worth waiting through the period of gestation. The Dash Between the Dots is easily the best album of Sharp’s career and the one that deserves to make her the star she’s always aspired to be.