Fine Upstanding Citizen

This is Maia Sharp's third album, and it's just as solid as her last one, 2002's self-titled CD. Those who are enamored of her powerful voice and songwriting skills will find much to like on this record as well.

Of course, Sharp's skills as a songwriter are widely recognized by her peers. Her songs have been recorded by The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, and Cher-and Bonnie Raitt is working on some Sharp compositions for her next record. And the list of those who with whom she's worked as a writing collaborator are just as impressive: Carole King, Kim Richey, Jules Shear, David Wilcox, Lisa Loeb, Paul Carrack, and many more.

The new album kicks into high gear immediately with the terrific song "Red Dress." Co-written with Kim Richey, the song deals with societal conformity, and begins with what might be the worst nightmare for a singer. "They'll wipe that smile right off your face/Give you a list of songs you're allowed to sing," say the lyrics. But the song's narrator keeps her internal individuality and fights to keep her unique red dress in a world of gray.

Sharp's musical arrangements are uniformly excellent throughout the album. The title cut is a nervy, angular jazz rock tune about a shoplifter caught in the act, during which Sharp gets to showcase her sax skills. The beautiful "Fall Like Margarite" is a violin-tinged song with very memorable swoopy melody lines. And "Come Back to Me" is a juiced-up piano ballad.

As always, Sharp's commanding voice anchors each of the songs. Fine Upstanding Citizen will likely find her many new fans and is a fine addition to Sharp's catalogue.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director