Singer-songwriter Ali McGuirk has certainly paid her dues over the years, playing clubs, dive bars, and house shows, while frequently opening for more established artists around New England and beyond. This weekend, McGuirk takes center stage as part of a national tour with a stop at Askew in Providence.
The show celebrates the release of her second album Till It’s Gone, an impressive new record produced by Jonah Tolchin. I spoke to McGuirk last week to learn more.
“It was a major project that took four years to bring to fruition,” McGuirk shared. “It was actually a really nice thing to keep me busy during the pandemic, I knew I had this project to look forward to, slowly chipping away at it. It helped give me a sense of purpose during those years of despair.”
The album is an exciting new direction for McGuirk, full of roots-based songs that incorporate elements of rock, R&B, pop and soul, no doubt, a strong release from the Burlington, VT based singer. Fans of Lake Street Dive, Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Julie Rhodes, and Little Feat will appreciate this one.
McGuirk pulled together a tremendous lineup of session legends to help her record the album including Little Feat guitarist/mandolinist Fred Tackett, organist Larry Goldings (James Taylor, Norah Jones), singer Valerie Pinkston (Ray Charles, Luther Vandross), and percussionist Lenny Castro (Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder).
“It was a huge privilege and honor to have them on it, musically it’s total icing on the cake for what we were trying to achieve sonically,” said McGuirk. “I had done the majority of the tracking in Providence, with Nick Coolidge, Kevin Clifford, and Jonah. We went to LA to finish it, that’s when it all kind of came together. There was one day when all the session people came in, Fred (Tackett) was the first person to come in, getting those extra layers added in, it was definitely surreal for me. It just felt awesome.”
McGuirk is a longtime fan of Little Feat, and was especially thrilled to be working with Tackett. “You don’t know what to expect … I knew the song and I knew Fred’s sound, but I didn’t have that clarity of what it was going to be when it came together. It was exciting that he was into the tunes, it came to him naturally but it was also really cool to work on it together,” she said. “His level of interest in the songs themselves was really validating as a songwriter.”
Thematically, the album addresses relationships through a modern feminist lens. “I had that big lofty goal of wanting the songs to resonate on a feminist or socially conscious level,” said McGuirk.
“I wanted to express something that was true to my experience, something that would resonate with people and maybe validate those good things that you can connect with when you hear great music,” explained McGuirk. “I definitely had the goal of writing an album that was empowering for women, and has this feminist angle. As somebody who loves old music so much, there are a million songs about love and relationships. A lot of them are really healing as a listener, and a lot are healing, but also put you in these old school tropes and situations that aren’t always that healthy.”
McGuirk produced three music videos along with the album, including “Milk,” which she made herself. “I made it with footage from public archives, it was like a collage, I got to include some of the imagery that was in my head when I was writing the song,” she explained. “That part of the project was really exciting for me, I didn’t do any videos with my first album. This was like a new frontier.”