Prime Cuts: Nobody Knows, You Are the Reason Why, Make A Wish
Kevin Sharp is not, in the words of Delbert McClinton, a "victim of circumstances." After an excoriating bout with cancer and after the folding of his record label Asylum, this resilient Idaho native is finally back with a brand new album in 7 years. Though released independently under producer Jerry Cupit's imprint, Cupit Records, the production is tow to toe with any major label product out there. And despite the bums and dumps, Sharp has never sounded more rejuvenated as he careens this CD with his smooth tenor timbered with his signature pop-country approach a la Collin Raye, Neal McCoy and Doug Stone. Taking a greater command over the choice of material, "Make a Wish" boasts 5 Sharp co-compositions and they are inherent with a profound sense of compassion and insights only a man who has come face to face with death (as Sharp had) could transcribed.
Like his previous two CDs, the ballads here are the cynosure. Flavored by some appeasing sounding piano which accents the romantic ambience, the "You Are the Reason Why" finds Sharp waxes eloquent over a gal whose affection knows no bounds. Couched with soft percussions and gentle guitar strums building up to full blown power ballad chorus, "Let Me Rock You to Sleep" finds a romantic Sharp offering his assurance of love to his paramour. The title cut, named after the organization of the same name that offers assistance to children with life threatening diseases, is another ballad with a message of hope for those in the midst of tribulations. And with portentous ordeal Sharp had been through, his life-transforming convictions radiates vivaciously right through this paean. Sharp's greatest hit "Nobody Knows" gets a reprise here and even after all these years, this ballad of unspeakable heart break still strikes a cord because its lyrical vulnerable is indeed a rip off reality.
All of this does not Sharp has gone all soft and mawkish: there are a few uptempoes to boot. Though the testosterone-charged ode to the blue collar "I Am a Working Man" may not charter any new ground, but it showcases Sharp's bluesier and grittier side. Current single "I Think I'll Stay" is a radio-pleasing pop number that pushes all the right buttons without being earth shattering. And that's the problem with the rest of the tracks, they are not disagreeable, but they are just a little pedestrian. Part of the reason resides in the fact that most songs come too in-house (coming from Sharp, Cupit and their cohorts). Perhaps a visit to some of Music Row's tunesmiths such as Dean Dillon, Paul Overstreet, Jeffrey Steele, Bill Anderson and even Nashville's hottest scribe John Rich might help.
Overall, "Make a Wish" is a thoughtful collection of tunes delivered by a man who knows how to transcribe his own experiences into vocal nuances in these songs. A welcoming return indeed, but if Sharp were to re-establish his place in country music's map, perhaps he ought to find a couple of earth shaking songs in the veins of "Nobody Knows."