Maia Sharp is, first and foremost, a composer. Her songs have come out of the mouths of Bonnie Raitt, Lisa Loeb, Trisha Yearwood, Art Garfunkel and Cher. Her own albums have been liberally sprinkled with pure gems. Mercy Rising, her self-released and self-produced latest, due in May, is no exception. With the help of Joshua Grange (who plays in the bands of Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams), Sharp’s barbs are as pointed as ever. Yet she sings ‘em so sweetly and soulfully that you don’t mind being sucker-punched. Case-In-Point—“Nice Girl,” where the mellifluous ambiance cracks open so the bile of the punch line can slap you hard. “When The World Doesn’t End” is smart, philosophical and questioning. “Backburner” is for those who suppress emotion. Sharp has, of late, partnered with a group known as “Songwriting With Soldiers” to express the lives of those in uniform. She’s a true poet.
Americana singer/songwriter Dulcie Taylor is on a roll. Last year’s Reimagined took from her 20 years of song to create a gorgeous tableau of voice and poetry with memorable melodies and profound messages. Now comes Rediscovered (Mesa/Bluemoon) wherein she’s handpicked six more gems from her deep catalog to revitalize. With caressing instrumentation that buttresses her slippery vocals, you will totally lose yourself in her tantalizing way with words to the point where you will be left wanting more. But, alas, it’s only an EP. Hey, doesn’t that old show-biz maxim say to leave them wanting more?
Great new rock bands are exceedingly hard to discover these days. Prism Bitch, out of Albuquerque New Mexico, fills the bill most spectacularly. Debut full-length Perla (self-released) is decidedly in the alternative camp. Its 11 songs bespeak a noisy kind of class that manifests itself into an almost Pixies-styled stew. As produced by Toshi Kasai (Foo Fighters/The Melvins), the ride is bumpy, unpredictable and surprising. (The "One Shot" video blew me away.) Punk in spots, with classic-rock riffs and pop hooks, it’s as melodic as it is abrasive. Bassist/Singer Lauren Poole, multi-instrumentalist Lilah Rose, guitarist Chris Walsh and drummer Teresa Cruces have an undeniable chemistry.
Is Judee Sill the new Laura Nyro? Nyro’s been dead for 24 years. Sill’s been dead for 42 years. She was the first artist David Geffen ever signed to his Asylum label. Her ’71 debut and ’73 follow-up were critical favorites but by ’79, she overdosed. Now she’s back. Down Where The Valleys Are Low: Another Otherworld For Judee Sill (StorySound Records) is a loving tribute put together by producer/multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Wolff. He’s gathered a cast of sympathetic singers and players to bring Sill’s tortured songs of addiction back to life. It proves to be a stirring reminder of what could’ve been. XTC, Shawn Colvin (who compared her to Brian Wilson) and Sleater-Kinney have all sung her praises. These songs are gritty, gorgeous and unforgettable. “The Pearl” is what a friend might tell you about their existential dilemmas before going out to score some heroin. “Crayon Angels,” according to the producer, is “raw and scary.” Whether sampling Haitian voodoo music or playing it straight like the good Los Angeles tunesmith she tried to be, Wolff has brought Judee Sill back from the dark to be cherished anew.