Songwriter Maia Sharp has issued only three recording in the last eight years. She established herself in the all-but-extinct AAA radio market with her debut, Hardly Glamour on the defunct Ark 21 imprint. Her self-titled sophomore outing was on the Concord Jazz label, of all places, and now she finds herself with Koch. Fine Upstanding Citizen is another extension of what Sharp does best: she writes very classy pop songs that bridge the gaps between rock, folk, and jazz forms. She's got a fine, smoky voice that is limited in range but is used to maximum effect due to a genuine stylist's sense of phrasing. Tracks like the opener, "Red Dress," are effective given their blend of jaunty melodies, sparse acoustic guitars, and painterly instrumental backdrops highlighting skeletal hooks. Elsewhere, such as on "Kinder Blues," the guitars weave a late-night tapestry where airy textures meet a lovelorn, weary vocal that digs into the seam of a relationship on the brink. "Fall Like Margarite" is simply gorgeous. Its simple melody, high-tuned guitars, minimal string arrangement, and hand percussion give the tune a live feel, and Sharp's saxophone solo in the break underscores the poignancy in this morality tale. This record won't set the charts on fire, but anyone interested in quality songwriting should be attracted to its corner. Hopefully, someone will give Fine Upstanding Citizen a chance; it's a mature mark from an under-the-radar artist who has a lot to say. ~ Thom Jurek
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