BY BRIAN ARSENAULT
Ogunquit, Maine. Maia Sharp went “around the horn,” as she said, with AG (Adrianne Gonzalez) and Garrison Starr at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit, Maine Thursday evening, and made a joyous sound to an enthusiastic but too small crowd. More promotion required.
Trading lead vocals and instruments and backed throughout by the wonderful Linda Taylor on guitar, the group — which is what they truly were on the evening– played their last gig in fine style. Maia is now off to open for Bonnie Raitt’s tour.
An appreciative audience got samplings from Maia’s terrific new album, Change the Ending, and some core work of the other two ladies. From Maia’s album we heard most of the best stuff: “Me After You,” “Standing Out in a Crowd,” “Stepping Stone” and, in encore, “Buy My Love.” I was hoping for “The Middle” as well but, as noted, the three were sharing lead singing so everything wasn’t possible.
They not only make up a great band instrumentally, but the three voices in harmony and in backgrounds for one another were one constant embrace throughout the evening. “It’s fun to be the band,” Maia said at one point and it truly was for the audience as well.
The surprise treat for me was AG’s reprising of some very early Beatles songs: “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Misery” (a personal all time favorite) and “I Saw Her Standing There.”
AG and Maia both mentioned the gender bending at work but what really mattered were AG’s thoughtful, soulful arrangements and sterling voice on all three tunes. It wasn’t a take off on the Beatles and certainly not a knock off. But it was an homage.
Garrison delighted with “Red Necks and Sailors” and moved the audience and herself with “Broken Headlights,” a Maia composition. She said that singing or hearing the latter song raised the hairs on the back of her neck and she wasn’t the only one.
As good as it was to hear live so many songs from Maia’s new album, her personal highlight of the evening may well have been an older tune, “Red Dress,” to which she invited the audience, including “very confident” guys, to sing along. She said she saw a couple but I didn’t, probably because we were all just content to watch and listen as she plowed her way through the almost angry, almost sad, mostly defiant number.
That song now seems the aggressive counterpart to the sensitive, contemplative, all been hurt quality of “Standing Out in a Crowd.”
“Too tall, too short, too smart, too dumb. . .”
An anthem for the adolescent pain that lingers.
I think “Standing Out in a Crowd” stands as an example of one of the great strengths of the evening, song after song from rockabilly to funk to love song to gospel with songwriting that made you smile, made you sad, made you think and feel. And I’m not just talking about the craftsmanship of blending lyrics with the right tune.
I am talking about writing — wordsmithing, composing not just music but genuine poetry at times, short stories at other. AG even did one about a “hot psychotic mess” when the FBI has the murdering bank robber’s motel surrounded. But she still loves her partner. A Ken Bruen novel, anyone?
And as to Maia’s writing, when you get her album, the lyrics are included. You’ll see what I mean.
In the intimate setting of Jonathan’s with a deeply appreciative audience, you just let it all wash over you.
To read more reviews, posts and columns by Brian Arsenault, including his review of Maia Sharp’s CD, “Change the Ending,” click HERE.