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Published: 2012/08/29
by Brian Robbins

Maia Sharp
Change The Ending

Blix Street/Crooked Crown Records

Maia knows Maia.

The art of self-producing an album is a tricky walk on a very narrow tightrope. While having a grip on one’s musical vision is a must, you have to also be able to get out of your own way and operate both deep inside and well outside of yourself at the same time. There’s no room for ego – only objectiveness and honesty.

In a full-band situation, there’s the potential to have either a democracy of input or a designated leader in the studio setting who the others ultimately defer to.

For a solo artist, there aren’t many choices.

Fortunately, in Maia Sharp’s case, Maia knows Maia – and her new album Change The Ending is proof.

Sharp has certainly worked with some talented producers, including Don Was, who her last studio effort, Echo. Was’ approach was to let Sharp and her songs breathe without a lot of sonic geegaws, with the result being a very intimate-sounding album.

With Change The Ending, Sharp has not only nailed that same intimacy as far as what reaches the listener’s ear, but what touches the heart, as well. The album features the sort of smart wordplay and ear-snagging melodies Sharp has become known for, delivered with a vibe that makes you feel like you’re sitting in the front row of a very small club.

Linda Taylor’s guitars provide color throughout Change The Ending – no grandstand solos; just tasteful touches ranging from cool, jazzy pastels to bold brush strokes of ache. Drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist David J. Carpenter provide the rhythm base for much of the album (the title song’s drum/bass foundation was created by Matheas Lupe and Boots Ottestad) while Bonnie Raitt, Garrison Starr, Adrianne Gonzalez, and Dawn Thomas are among the tune buddies who guest throughout the album.

And there are the songs themselves, full of Maiaisms crafted from simple words. “Me After You” has several verses, but the final two lines of the chorus say it all:

Baby, even I would rather be
You after me than me after you

“Sober” makes apologies for clear-headedness as a relationship ends, knowing that “in the morning I’ll be nursing and cursing my clarity hangover.” (Dillon O’Brian’s organ provides the perfect unsettled sway beneath it all.) The driving rhythm of the title tune gives way to the punchline:

If they made our movie
The meeting to the falling
Every twist before you
Before you stopped calling
They could make it true
With just a little bending
It’s a beautiful story
If you change the ending

There’s self-discovery (“Standing Out In A Crowd”); there’s painful realization (“Buy My Love” and “The Bed I Made”); and there’s hope (the “Rising”, buoyed by the lovely cello work of Vanessa Freebairn-Smith). And there’s just plain fun to found, as well – most notably on the finger-snapper “I See Cecelia”, co-penned by Maia and her father Randy (who also mixed the album).

An instrumental version of “Buy My Love” closes things, with Sharp and cohorts donning their jazzbo personas (including Dave “The Closer” Hooper on drums, Ed “The Wrench” Roth on keys, Glenda “The Peach” Smith on trumpet, and Martha “Momma Slide” on trombone) for a way-cool take on the tune.

Could a jazz album be next in Maia Sharp’s future? Only she knows.

After all, Maia knows Maia.

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