Graham Sharp/Truer Picture/Yep Roc
Four out of Five stars
Given the fact that he’s currently considered Steep Canyon Ranger’s primary songwriter and one of the band’s two lead singers, it seems somewhat surprising that Graham Sharp would need a further outlet for his creativity beyond the band’s borders. Likewise, with the Steep’s productivity at a peak over the course of the past few months, it would seem Sharp would have had ample opportunity to mine his muse. Clearly then, Sharp’s prolific prowess knows no bounds, and while the aptly named Truer Picture might appear a sideline of sorts, it’s more a reflection of his ability to craft melodies that are both alluring and ultimately indelible.
In that sense. Sharp’s solo foray is more about melody than musicality, all in a stripped down setting that eschews the usual instrumental accouterments that his colleagues contribute. Sharp bares the basics by playing all the instruments (save pedal steel) and pursuing his penchant for songs that linger in the consciousness and simply stand on their own. The lovely “Truer Picture of Me” finds that tendency evident at the outset, given its tender trappings and the sincerity of its sentiment. “Generation Blues” rocks with an assurance that brings the early iconic Dylan to mind, especially songs such as “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Positively 4th Street.” “Love Yourself” offers advice for anyone plagued with doubt and uncertainty, capping the message with the mantra “There’s nothing you can’t do.”
In that sense, Truer Picture is, as its name implies, a full measure of Sharp’s inherent talents as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Other comparisons also come quickly. The weary reflection of “North Star” brings to mind the sadder sentiments found in the songs of Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt. The rabid, rapid-fire harmonica playing on “Bad Apple” sounds like it could have come from primetime John Mayall, while the quiet croon of “Why We Explode” describes the disillusionment and disappointment that accompanies any imploding relationship. Indeed, Sharp’s rich, melodious vocals resonate throughout, a key element that provides these songs with the added emphasis they clearly deserve. So too, the folksy, down-home ramble that drives “Coming Back to Life” has Sharp plucking his banjo with easy abandon, a reminder that his bluegrass roots are never far from the surface, even when they don’t necessarily involve his band’s business.
A fully realized work, Truer Picture offers a full view of the talents Sharp shares. His day job aside, he proves quite able on his own.