Ali McGuirk Unveils New Album at the Linda, October 1st
Ali McGuirk has made a career of captivating audiences with her powerful, buttery voice and heartfelt songwriting. Her earliest years as a performer were spent earning residencies across four continents, from Santorini to Hong Kong.
In 2016, she was recognized by the Boston Globe as an “artist to hear,” along with Lake Street Dive, Haim and other notable names. Shortly thereafter, she released her debut, self-titled EP and has been riding that momentum ever since.
In November 2017, she released her first full-length album, “Slow Burn,” which saw her working with an eclectic mix of artists, including Boston guitar legend Jeffrey Lockhart (Lettuce, D’angelo, Lalah Hathaway), Brandon Mayes (Kendrick Lamar, Soulja Boy), DeShawn D’Vibes Alexander (Marcus King, Eric Krasno) and Cilla Bonnie (Air Traffic Controller).
“Slow Burn” was named on multiple year-end lists, including Boston rock critic Steve Morse’s Top Ten Albums of 2017, and contributed to Ali’s current total of 7 Boston Music Award nominations and her 2018 New England Music Award nomination for R&B Act of the Year.
McGuirk’s new release (her debut on Signature Sounds) is Til It’s Gone. On the recommendation of producer Jonah Tolchin (a star singer-songwriter in his own right), McGuirk traveled from her adopted home of Burlington, Vermont to the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake to track much of it, and the sessions there really helped the album to bloom. It is a sublime set of songs that pairs McGuirk’s trademark soul sound with rootsy turns and raw rock ‘n’ roll detours. McGuirk remembers describing to Tolchin the vibe she envisioned for the record. She mentioned something about it being akin to the cool fusion of styles that Little Feat achieved in the ’70s – that funky, twangy, jazzy and thoroughly-authentic feel. Tolchin suggested they just call up legendary Little Feat guitarist/mandolinist Fred Tackett and get him to lay down a few parts.
“Fred Tackett came in and was casually telling stories about sessions he did with Ringo and Harry Nilsson like it’s not a big deal,” McGuirk says with a laugh. “It took me a minute to acclimate, but once the music started, everyone was so supportive and into the tunes.”
Tolchin and engineer/studio owner Sheldon Gomberg recruited an A-list of session players including Tackett, organist Larry Goldings (James Taylor, Norah Jones), singer Valerie Pinkston (Ray Charles, Luther Vandross), percussionist Lenny Castro (Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder). They provided the astounding chops, but the true magic of Til It’s Gone comes from McGuirk’s singular voice as both singer and songwriter. The nine tracks – songs that run from intimate introspection to wider meditations on oppression and justice – succeed because McGuirk has composed dynamic, hypnotic frames for her vocals.