Graham Sharp of Steep Canyon Rangers Takes Stripped Down Approach on Solo Debut ‘Truer Picture’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

After 20 years playing banjo, singing and writing songs for Steep Canyon Rangers, Graham Sharp is finally going it alone, at least for one album.

Truer Picture, Sharp’s solo debut, is not a huge departure from his day job, he still plays roots-based Americana but forgoes traditional Bluegrass for a more stripped-down, subtle sound. The opening track, “Truer Picture of Me,” is pleasant enough, if a bit restrained, but it’s the following song, “Generation Blues,” that really stands out here both lyrically – singing about intergenerational problems – and musically with a strong “Subterranean Homesick Blues” vibes but aimed at more modern times. As Sharp points out in the press materials, this song is about as close to rock ‘n’ roll as he gets. And while there are some really good songs that follow, none quite match the energy and excitement of “Generation Blues.”

As the main songwriter for Steep Canyon Rangers, Sharp certainly hasn’t had a problem getting his music out there, but this is the first time he is actually in control of how those songs are sung, taking on lead vocal duties for an entire album. His distinct baritone gives an emotional heft to the tunes. Like many songs that have been written over the past year, the loneliness from isolation thanks to the global pandemic and the required shutdowns can be heard throughout Truer Picture.  Nowhere is that stronger than on “Come Visit My Island.” In addition, the political unrest that also came to define 2020 is obvious on a song like “My Neighborhood.” 

An intimate affair, the album was produced and mixed by Sharp and Seth Kauffman (Floating Action, Courtney Jaye) and recorded at Kaufman’s Black Mountain, NC studio. Both played all of the instruments with the exception of pedal steel, which was played by Matt Smith. The War On Drugs bassist David Hartley also helped provide vocals on the mellow, yet charming “Deeper Family.”

Photo by: Sandlin Gaither Music Photography

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