REVIEW: Mary McGuinness “Prodigal” is Sprung From an Old-World Seed


Review John Apice

Mary McGuinness – Prodigal

Some artists are talented, sound good & are entertaining. Yet, what they lack is creativity, originality & a certain amount of magic that makes them at the least — interesting. I received this latest vinyl LP & when I placed the phono cartridge (needle) down on the groove I was pleasantly surprised to discover an exhilarating vocal — sprung from an old-world seed.

There is a drop of Sandy Denny folksiness & lucidity, some smokiness of Beverly Martyn, Linda Thompson tonality, & a slight edgy-beauty of the late Judee Sill in this LA songstress’ style.

The original music has a rustic quality of early Strawbs, Fairport Convention & Pentangle. Yet, this is not traditional English folk its pop music with a roots music underpinning that makes it all the more attractive to foreign ears.

Mary McGuinness’ “Recognition,” has that foundation similar to the early Marianne Faithful rendition of “Wild Mountain Thyme.” She effortlessly sings within the confines of well-arranged melodies played by innovative & proficient musicians.

On her 7-track vinyl LP Prodigal (drops May 8th – Independent) the music features producer Lawrence Katz (electric, baritone & acoustic guitars), Joel Shearer (electric & acoustic guitar, tenor ukulele, organ), Patrick Hart (piano), Paul Buccholz (bass), & Blair Sinta (drums).

While not as operatic as Annie Haslam or Jane Relf (both of Renaissance), Mary may very well have the capabilities. “Silver Edge,” the 4th track awakens with more energy & enthusiasm, with string textures by Edward McCormack. A touch of Medieval haunting backup vocals as well. But Mary’s tight, delightful musical voice is a force. Despite the beauty of her fine tone you could tell this woman could kick-ass vocally if she wanted to. She would be so effective with Dave Cousins & Strawbs who often compose well-written dramatic songs & have used female vocalists (Sandy Denny & Mary Hopkin).

Mary covers 2 tracks on her LP – Kris Kristofferson’s “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends,” & a Peter Gabriel tune. She takes Kris’s alt-country song & turns it more diligently into a “traditional-folk” rendering. As she sings the melody carries its tidal quality along as a soft wave.

On Prodigal, Mary is joined by Ben Thomas (acoustic guitar), Adam MacDougall (piano & percussion) & Ben Peeler (Lap steel). Her phrasing, vocal power & depth is effective. She’s not a contemporary female vocalist or falsetto/diva showboat. She ignites with clear confident notes where they need to be & the lyric emphasis comes with clarity.

The second cover is Peter Gabriel’s “Washing of the Water,” & Mary’s vocals – deliciously sensitive. I have felt any artist with unfamiliarity to a general audience should cover at least two songs on a new LP to show listeners familiar with the original song the new singer’s diversity, ability to reinterpret & how they embody a composition other than their own (which is usually their comfort zone).

Mary passes. The LP sleeve includes lyrics & is available on Mary’s website. A CD may eventually follow.

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