I get a lot of blind submissions for music to review, mostly because I’ve been doing it so long. Many of them are true independent artists, doing everything up to and including manufacturing, distribution, and mailing.
I find a lot of joy in this. I get to support someone who’s outside the Big Label system, and I get to discover a lot of cool, wonderful music. Emily Maguire is an excellent example of same. She lives on a farm in the Australian Outback with her husband, some goats, and a lot of Australian wildlife, some of which won’t even try to kill you.
And let me tell you, friends, she has a magnificent voice on her latest CD A Light To Follow.
She falls somewhere between Paula Cole and Sarah Brightman. Her songwriting and its clever turns of phrase remind me of Cole, as does the power of her voice and her ability to control it. When she soars upwards on those high notes, though, she packs a punch much like Brightman. It’s a lovely combination. In addition, she wrote all the songs, performed the keyboard, guitar and cello parts, did the string arrangements.
Perhaps more astonishing, she has bipolar disorder, and is open and frank about her struggles with it. Quite often art flows out of adversity, and I am a big fan of being frank and open about mental health matters.
But really, this review needs to be about the songs. And they’re pretty damned good.
There are no misses on Follow. “She’s Gone” seems simple—a song about a woman finally leaving—but the intricate accompaniment and the dynamic range turn it into something very special. “Stay” is a gentle, elegant ballad that reminds me of the best of Nanci Griffith. “How To Conquer” addresses social inequality neatly, and the closing title track is a moving request for a space to live one’s life and be safe. Few albums are perfect. This one comes very, very close.
I cannot recommend A Light To Follow highly enough. Take the time and make the effort to get your hands and ears on this one.
For nigh on twenty years, Emily Maguire has been releasing albums chock full of songs as exquisitely catchy and relatable as they are touching and insightful. Although her vocals possess a purity that is almost angelic, Maguire sings with a passion and authenticity that is compelling. Delicate it may be, but this is a voice that has experienced life’s challenges and risen above them.
Maguire has been open about her ongoing experience with mental health issues and dealing with bipolar disorder. She has used this both as a catalyst for her writing and as an advocate for great understanding of mental health. But the compositions on ‘A Light To Follow’ are not preachy or attempting to be ‘worthy’. Rather, this is a collection of uplifting meditations on life, love and rising above.
The result is a compelling album of songs in which the singer conveys a glimpse into real emotions but with a comforting and inspiring spirit. Recorded by Maguire and her life and musical partner Christian Dunham, in their home in the Australian outback, the record adopts an organic, acoustic feel. The blending of guitar, bass, piano and strings creates a lush backing for the beautiful vocal performances. Highly recommended.
An album born of both the pandemic and her own mental health struggles, it acknowledges the darkness but it consistently seeks the light.
Recorded in an improvised tightly sealed indoor space on her and husband/producer Christian Dunham’s goat farm in the Australian bush of Queensland, this varies from feelings of trepidation to one of joy, a reflection of her bipolar condition and her Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.
It opens with ‘She’s Gone’, a number which starting out with a gentle circling fingerpicked pattern transforms into swelling soaring choruses that capture the spirit of the woman in the song walking away from a neglectful relationship and Maguire admonishing him for ignoring her pleas and just carrying on. Given the songs were written during the country’s 2020 lockdown, it’s not surprising the find resilience informing some of the lyrics, a case in point being the pertinently titled and suitably upbeat sounding ‘Sunshine‘ that finds her wrestling with the demons in her head but declaring:
I don’t want to be torn again And no matter how high the tide I can weather the storm again
The sun is coming out There’s another day here now the night is over
There’s a similar sense to ‘About Everything‘ with its strings and heavenly backing chorus where there are things that need to be said:
But you’re feeling tired And the pain is bad in the evenings Nothing seems to take it away
And is essentially a let’s sleep on it lullaby:
And in the morning We’ll talk and laugh about everything
A reminder that a good night’s rest can prove one the best therapies and with the moon and the stars to calm, then:
Everything is nothing but beautiful.
That optimism that it will all work out anchors the piano-backed, softly sung moody SoCal blues of ‘Believe Me‘:
Give me black, give me white Give me hope and I’ll be alright now Give me day, give me night Break my heart but I’ll be alright now Make me laugh, make me cry Wake me up and I’ll be alright now Make me low, make me high Make me fall but I’ll be alright now
The song directly addresses her struggles with mental health
They never said it’d be easy Letting go of the demons in my mind…Make me strong, make me sane.
But as it swells, soars and then slowly ebbs away, she sings:
I’m starting to see there’s a better way to be
Even so, mirroring her bi-polar swings, on the yearningly sung, strings and piano arranged, ‘Let Me Be‘:
It’s coming round again Another wave to make me drown again
And while she knows she must be strong to overcome the intangible darkness:
It just won’t let me be.
The theme of sanity resurfaces on the fingerpicked circling and cascading, strings-soaked love song ‘Stay‘ (a track musically reminiscent of Don McLean’s ‘And I Love You So‘) as she admits life’s never easy and:
I was never good at playing At staying sane
But while the demons still come calling, having known what it’s like to have been pinned to the wall but survived, she’s no longer scared, injecting celebratory notes as she sings:
There’s nothing like the feeling Of being sane.
Whisperingly sung to a ruminative piano before the melody surges in anthemic manner, ‘How To Conquer‘ (and here I’m put in mind of ‘Amoreuse‘) expands the perspective in a song calling for resistance and change again those who would hold us back and down:
They’ve got our minds They’ve got our hearts They turn day into the dark Cos they want us scared They want us meek So they do anything they please
Pointing the finger at corporate greed:
They sell our parks They sell our streets Every forest, every sea
But calling on the oppressed to take a stand:
How to conquer, how to blight It takes one man to start a fight We could end it and change the world.
Likewise, environmentalist concerns underpin ‘Another Wild World‘:
It’s on the news, they say we’re out of time We’re losing everything and it’s our design And you won’t find another wild world This ain’t a case where you can walk on by Cos no-one’s safe when there is nowhere to hide And you can’t buy another wild world
Returning to personal struggles, things take a smoother course, the fingerpicked guitar and folksy melody evocative of Townes Van Zandt, on ‘Dreaming‘ where she’s again facing down the demons with a Nietzschean attitude:
They kill but they won’t kill me When life breaks my heart, it’ll make me wise.
As I’ve said, resilience in the face of adversity, whether from within or without, is theme that runs throughout the album, surfacing again in ‘Northern Star‘:
I may be broken and blind But I know I’m gonna find my way And it’s not easy to be strong But I know I’ll carry on, I’ll stay.
And in ‘The Only Thing‘:
I’ve been blind But now I can see this time The only thing we’ve got Is the love we gave And the hope we’ll be free someday
The album comes to close with contrasting notes of despair and hope, first in the intimately sung, circling guitar pattern and dappled drums of ‘My Way Home’ where, taking influences perhaps from Janis Ian, she sings:
I’m lost again, I thought I’d been so close to home But now I’m far away from everything My eyes are tired, my hands are holding emptiness And hope has left me for the coast She won’t be there when I need her most to stay.
All the voices in my head Shouting that I should be dead
And as she pleads:
Leave a light on for me So in the night I can see my way home
It follows the light into the title track to end the album with a mix of nervy and confident piano notes and echoed drums and the assurance that after the storm there is the calm, after the night there is dawn, and while life may cut you to the bone:
You are beautiful and brave facing all that sorrow
You will fly away When you get your wings You’ll see that silence Is in everything And you will find some peace someday And a light to follow.
A grace note born of struggle and determination, like the light of which she sings, this is luminous.
Emily Maguire hails from the UK and is currently back in Australia (something else to blame Brexit for!) with her husband, Christian Dunham, living on a goat farm in the bush. This is where her current record, was recorded, released under Shaktu records, co produced by Emily and Christian.
Emily’s prior two albums, A Bit of Blue and Bird Inside A Cage, both produced by Nigel Butler, were multi layered studio productions. In contrast, A Light to Follow was recorded in a custom made tardis for the vocals and features an array of real instruments. Classically trained, it is no surprise that Emily wrote all of the string arrangements and contributed all of the cello, piano, keys and guitar parts. Christian provided baselines, Shane Nelsc, drums, Dan Lyons, some beautiful lapsteel and Sarah King, violin and viola.
Emily, who has always been very open about her experiences with bipolar, wrote most of the songs on this, her seventh album, during a manic episode triggered by the 2020 lockdown. There is a book to accompany the album, which tells the stories.
Immediately striking is that voice, so hauntingly beautiful it just cuts straight through to your soul. That, along with her articulate, often clever lyrics and her own story, make her delivery flawless and her content real, and at times, raw. Not unlike it’s predecessors, this album is a journey, through darkness, despair and struggles, to light, hope and ultimately. peace. A relatable reflection of life to us all, especially knowing these songs took shape during the strangest time through which we have all lived.
It is incredibly hard to select favourite tracks, but some which stand out are Northern Star, Let Me Be and A Light to Follow (which having quite recently witnessed someone very close experience bipolar, hit me in ways I didn’t expect; the idea of watching and waiting is incredibly powerful). She’s Gone explores a different subject but is a very striking contribution to the album.
There is something inherently unique and special about an Emily Maguire album; it is time spent with a friend and experiences shared and lessons passed on. Emily says there is no theme to the album, rather a desire to inspire, uplift and comfort those listening. She most certainly does all three for those lucky enough to experience this release. I hope, in turn, that knowledge gives her inspiration, comforts and lifts her up.
I am also hoping this CD might bring her back to the UK for a long overdue tour – Emily? Don’t forget the North East!
EDS (English Dance & Song) Magazine
Everything on this album commands attention. The spartan arrangements allow the words, music and performances to shine in their elegant beauty, whether simpler arrangements with Emily’s voice, guitar and little more, or enhanced by arranger, orchestrator and producer Nigel Butler’s ethereal backing arrangements. Of the 11 tracks, nine are Emily’s compositions, one is a collaboration with Nigel, the other is Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes.
This is a personal, autobiographical album. It is not background music. The Banks Of The Acheron concerns a daughter lost in miscarriage, the Acheron being the river of woe in the Greek underworld of myth, I’d Rather Be is an upbeat look at Emily’s struggle with mental health issues, while Stone and Sky opens with the words “She’s alone in a cemetery” – a haunting ghost story.
The press release states, “we wanted it stripped bare, haunting and as beautiful as it could possible be”. It is. Yet it does not leave you feeling sad, it is soothing and thought-provoking.
Now in recovery after a serious illness, Emily Maguire’s latest release is a powerful opus that is at one moment solemn and pensive, yet exhilarating and transformational the next. It is a collection of songs old and new that have been moulded together by her regular producer, Nigel Butler, in a manner that uncompromisingly represents the sensitive nature of her creative vision.
Maguire admits that, with the exception of ‘Now Somehow’ and the Sandy Denny cover ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, ‘A Bit of Blue’ is autobiographical and, as such, it illustrates some astonishing honesty. The rhythmic lyric delivery of ‘I’d Rather Be’ abandons despair for optimism via an addictive musical custody. Maguire wrote the song as she came to terms with understanding her condition and, in her words, ‘was shifting from being terrified to feeling stronger, and realising that this energy in my head could be something precious.’
Written a day after her miscarriage, ‘Banks Of The Acheron’ is a Celtic-styled folk song originally written with guitar in mind but here using emotive piano and, as with the other tunes, focusing on a mantra of hope. The album is anything but miserable however, and reflects her positive doctrine that life is clearly about choices. With vocals recorded in Australia and expertly mixed by Butler in his Ross-on-Wye studios, ‘A Bit Of Blue’ is startlingly beautiful.
Following an unexpected hiatus for health reasons, after her acclaimed release, Bird Inside A Cage, renowned UK singer songwriter Emily Maguire makes a long awaited return with her new CD, A Bit of Blue.
Recorded partly in Ross on Wye, England and partly in Queensland, Australia, it could have become discombobulated, yet it all comes together as one. Produced by Nigel Butler, known for his work with KD Lang and Robbie Williams, this is a CD that has to be listened to, heard, reflected on and appreciated. If not, the beauty of the lyrics, Emily’s vocals and the perfect instrumentation, will be lost.
That, I feel, is Emily’s gift. She offers songs which enable the listener to think, to wonder, to imagine and to feel. Overall, it is a more gentle, pensive album and an opportunity to see a different side of her, as a person and a musician.
She takes on Sandy Denny’s legendary Who Knows Where The Time Goes, delivering it in such a way that the words cut through in a way they haven’t, for me, previously. It is a question, a ponderance, a regret, a wish; all tied up inside one song.
The title track references searching for light in darkness; a reference to mental health, it seems eerily appropriate to us all, looking at the world at present. The opener, Memory, laments lost love, with the aid of piano and cello accompaniment; a trend continued in It’s Alright, about a break up. underlined by a moody piano. The Words That I Could Say tackles a hard subject matter. Real, honest and raw, its female protagonist voices excuses after excuses for not choosing to leave an emotionally abusive relationship. Do we, as the listener, judge, or empathise? Banks Of The Acheron, with a lone piano, tells the tragic tale of a miscarriage and Stone And Sky verges on being a ghost story. Intriguing and well told, the story draws you in from the opening line.
Interestingly, Emily chooses to revisit her song I’d Rather Be’. At the time of its first release, her listeners were unaware of her experiences with bipolar. Knowing now her story, her work to eradicate the stigma around mental health, this song is a timely insight into her, those around us and even ourselves. Even without mental health issues, we all struggle at times with being who we are and this song reminds us that we shouldn’t; we should be proud of being who we are, talents, flaws, quirks and all.
My simple conclusion is that this CD needs to be heard. Emily also has some live performance dates coming up around the country. not to be missed. Look for a venue near you.
Northern Sky Magazine
Emily Maguire is a British born singer songwriter and this is her fifth release and her first after a three-year break. Maguire a classically trained musician was out of action for two years, suffering from chronic tendonitis. Unable to play a bout of depression followed. Emily is the first to acknowledge that this album came from a dark time in her life, but recognises in the song I’d Rather Be that light often comes out of or with dark. The album is more stripped back than her earlier albums, but X Factor producer Nigel Butler works with Emily’s soulful songs and in terms of emotional intensity less is definitely more.
Emily’s voice over the keyboards and subtle orchestration on the opening track is captivating, there are no histrionics or gymnastics, just a warm voice that draws you in and holds your attention. The emotion rises on the short chorus and the albums first mention of the blue lyrical motif. This is classic intelligent 70s singer songwriter territory, recalling piano led ballads by Judie Tsuke or Carole King. Emotionally intense with a simple arrangement. Getting Older places the intimate vocal against a gently picked guitar. Again, Emily Maguire’s vocal and her delivery of an emotive lyric, a personal narrative laid bare, draws you in and holds you tight. The title song is plaintive, but ultimately upbeat showing how difficulties can colour life in a positive way.
For Free is more outward looking as Maguire considers the natural world and its freedom against the seductive but shallow freedoms of our online line selves. Its Alright is a song of love gone cold, as over some anthemic piano chords, Emily lays herself bare. Like so many of the songs, this is a beautiful lyric with some sharp word play and a powerful vocal. Now Somehow is an album highlight, a torch song, a jazz standard in the making. Beautiful playing, an earworm melody, broad themed lyrics and a crystalline vocal make this a perfect moment. This should be picked up by a moody TV thriller, its brooding atmosphere are crying out for a melancholic Wallandar or a Broadchurch. The Banks of the Acheron is an achingly beautiful folk song, a dark portrait of a miscarriage. The Words That I Could I Say is another love gone cold song, written, like Its Alright, when a head full of thoughts keeps you awake, but this time the songwriter is frozen by circumstance and less decisive.
Stone And Sky is a ghost story, a starting point for a Neil Gaiman tale, and a metaphor for people frozen by circumstances, unable to go forwards or back. Like Wish You Were Here, I’d Rather Be is a song that weighs out metaphors, similar, but less gnomic than Simon and Garfunkels El Condor Pasa, it is a song of conclusions and resolutions after an album of reflection and examination. It’s a brave soul who takes on Who Knows Where The Time Goes, Sandy Denny’s anthemic pondering of passing time and it’s an indication of Emily Maguire’s quiet power that she makes it her own on this hymn like album closer.
This is a brave and powerful album, a perfect example of a songwriter deciding we need to see it all, raw and real, not autotuned and homogenised. True to herself, having sung of taking the highs and lows over hiding in a narrow mind, Emily gives it to us straight, giving us an album of performances that have intensity and integrity. It cannot be coincidence that the title, the cover and its stripped back, paired back nature recalls Joni Mitchell’s BLUE, an intense album of relationships under the microscope songs.
Eleven songs from singer/songwriter Emily Maguire, all her own work apart from Now Somehow, co-written with producer Nigel Butler, and Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes.
She is a fine singer with an excellent feel for phrasing and dynamics, forceful where necessary, but never overstated. Most of the accompaniment is provided by piano, bass and guitar with some percussion and cello, the whole greatly enhanced by Nigel Butler’s outstanding, atmospheric orches-trations—he must have terrabytes of vst plug-ins, effects racks etc at his beck and call.
As with all good songwriters Emily’s work can be appreciated at more than one level — always let your audience do some of the work. I particularly enjoyed the social commentary of For Free, the jazz waltz Now Somehow, the mesmeric Stone And Sky (1st line… “She’s alone in a cemetery”), I’d Rather Be — the PR says it’s about Emily being bipolar, but I just thought it was a premier league list song — and the closer, her brilliant take on the Sandy Denny perennial, sounds as though it is being beamed to us from the furthest reaches of deep space. Highly recommended.
Emily Maguire’s latest album, A Bit Of Blue, pretty much defines the maxim that when you want people to really listen, speak quietly: make them lean in to hear properly. The first time it went on my CD player, I confess I was only half-listening. This is very much the wrong thing to do: do not try this at home.
One song suddenly pierced through the distraction, grabbed whatever bit of the human brain it is that responds to music and grabbed on tight. The song, instantly recognisable as Sandy Denny’s immortal ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, was a version like no other before it. Maguire’s voice floats on a slick sheen of metallic guitar, sounding both day-dreamy and world-weary in equal parts. It’s a poignant, yet appropriate, choice for a musician who was prevented from playing her instruments for almost two years due to illness, leading to a depressive episode, and who must have felt that slipping away of time most acutely.
This album stands distinct from much of Maguire’s previous work in being a more downbeat and stripped back affair, laden with serious subject matter. That’s not to say it’s gloomy, not at all, but it is quietly reflective and thoughtful. The sublime musical arrangements have a deceptive gentleness that perfectly counterpoints abundantly bittersweet lyrics. Maguire mostly uses the softer, more delicate part of her voice, which only adds to the sense of emotional vulnerability and nakedness, but there is a core of strength there, too, a tiny flint of determination.
There is quite a bit of darkness to be found here, but it’s always leavened with the promise of light. Title track ‘A Bit Of Blue’ refers explicitly to this, Maguire searching the grey skies for any sign of blue breaking through (“enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers”, as the saying goes): an apt metaphor for depression and how hard it is for non-sufferers to comprehend.
Opening song, ‘Memory’, has a simply gorgeous interplay of piano and cello accompanying a song of long lost love. The death of love is bravely confronted in break-up song, ‘It’s Alright’, underlined by a moody piano. A quite different take on love is offered in ‘The Words That I Could Say’ where the female narrator makes endless excuses for not leaving a psychologically abusive relationship. It’s a plausible and scary insight into how we rationalise away what we can’t bear to confront. The optimistic, faintly country-ish guitar only underscores the quiet desperation of the lyrics.
A miscarriage is tenderly mourned in ‘Banks Of The Acheron’, over a spartan bar-room piano, while ‘Stones And Sky’ is an atmospheric spectral tale of the reluctant dead. Returning to the modern world is ‘For Free’ with its lamentation of commerciality and the “thousand friends I never see” on social media. Yet there’s an optimism as well, also evident on ‘Now Somehow’ (co-written with producer Nigel Butler), which addresses the fickleness of fortune. This is musically perhaps the most upbeat song on the album, although even here, there’s a subtle switching of mood between good times and bad.
The grit that makes the Maguire pearl is perhaps most evident in ‘I’d Rather Be’, a frank acknowledgement that she wouldn’t exchange the highs and lows of her bipolar condition “to hide in a narrow mind“. Maguire’s openness about her health issues, her work playing gigs for mental health patients, and books on the subject are all welcome contributions to ending the stigmas around mental illness. Unafraid to address the darkness but also seizing the light, this album feels like a bold and intimate personal statement.
FRUK (Folk & Roots Webzine)
When listening to Emily Maguire’s latest album ‘A Bit of Blue,’ it’s worthwhile setting aside time to listen and let the album really soak in. As the clouds part and that blue shines through the grey, the rewards are many.
It takes a lot of chutzpah if you’re going to cover Sandy Denny’s immortal Who Knows Where The Time Goes. All the more so if you happen to be a female singer-songwriter of folksy inclinations. There have been several, Judy Collins, Kate Rusby and Mary Black among them, but, while well executed, most have gone for a faithful, if not reverential, approach. Only Nina Simon’s version, akin to Roberta Flack’s take on First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, really offers a new interpretation. That now also holds true of Emily Maguire whose fifth album A Bit of Blue closes with a spellbinding, atmospheric Who Knows Where The Time Goes with electronic effects, shimmering guitar and percussion that evokes night winds blowing across empty deserts as a backdrop to Maguire’s hushed wearied vocals.
It’s a striking end to a haunting and sublime album, more pared down than her 2013 A Bird In A Cage, that opens with the piano and cello lost-love ballad Memory, sounding like classic Janis Ian. Its reflective and thoughtful tone is echoed throughout the songs on the album. They demand attentive listening, for the arrangements as much as the lyrics are mostly born from a dark period of her life that saw her caught in a lengthy period of depression triggered by chronic tendonitis in her arms that left her unable to play her instruments for two years. This is specifically the case with the piano accompanied title track with its imagery of the sky, drained of colour. Likewise, I’d Rather Be addresses her bipolar disorder, choosing life and endurance over passive acceptance and resignation as she sings “I would rather be the shooting star than the empty space between” and “I would rather stare through the blackest night than never see the breaking dawn.”
As on Memory, broken relationships also provide the thematic thread for the defiant on It’s Alright (where she reminds me of Julia Fordham) and The Words That I Could Say. On the latter, the lightly rippling melody provides a contrast to lyrics about not being able to find a way to leave a psychologically abusive relationship.
Death provides the subject matter for two numbers. The atmospheric Stone and Sky is a meditation on mortality, a nihilistic companion piece perhaps to Getting Older’s wry musing on ageing and dreams turning to dust, while it arguably reaches its darkest depths on Banks Of The Acheron. Borrowing its title from the river in Hades across which, in Greek mythology, Charon ferried the dead, it’s a spare, poignant portrait of a miscarriage.
Elsewhere, the slow barroom blues waltzing Now Somehow, co-penned by producer Nigel Butler, relates the story of a friend who had it all and lost everything. Rather than dwell on the negative, the song talks of having the strength and determination to overcome adversity, much like Maguire herself and the sentiments of the title track. Likewise, no relation to Joni Mitchell, For Free is a serious but playful commentary on the anxiety and corruption of modern life and the lack of personal contact engendered by social media networking that yet still finds a reason for optimism.
A Bit of Blue is a deeply rewarding album, it coincides with the publication of Emily Maguire’s second book, Notes from the North Pole, a collection of her poetry and songs.
With a singer-songwriter marketplace that is crowded to standing-room-only status, it’s nigh on impossible to strike out. But Emily Maguire has been quietly beavering away in the background, releasing albums to great acclaim and then retreating into the shadows to hone her craft still further. A Bit of Blue is her fifth release and finds her material stripped right back to breathy, spacey ballads that are bathed in raw emotional power. Take Stone And Sky – a sort of modern ghost story; it’s richly atmospheric, with a kind of intense theatrical narrative that recalls Kate Bush at her best. Certainly an artist to watch out for.
Haunting landscapes and imagery rich songs.
Emily Maguire, the British born singer-songwriter, has had a remarkable journey. Plucked from obscurity in 2007 to support Don McLean at the Royal Albert Hall, she has released 3 albums, written poetry and prose, published a book on the Bi-polar condition and suffered numerous health setbacks and challenges, so it is no wonder that her songs aren’t three minute puff pieces about men.
Produced by Nigel Butler, (K.D.Lang, Robbie Williams, Will Young), he has helped to transform this set of beautiful, broken images into a series of ethereal songs, linked by the binding narrative of lush orchestration, sparse instrumentation and the dream-like quality of Maguire’s voice. This is no easy listen – this isn’t an album to pop on in the kitchen while you make tea. This is one of those rare, wonderful beasts in today’s instant world that has to be loved. Every lyric needs time and space to breathe, to settle and to be poured over. Melodies are in abundance here but not necessarily evident on first listen, you won’t get to the end and have one of the songs lodged like an ear-worm in your brain – A BIT OF BLUE is not one of those albums, it’s a grower, it needs nurturing and like everything that is given a chance to flourish it will give back in spades, as long as you allow it to.
Despite the fact that some of this album was recorded in Queensland, Australia and some in Ross-on-Wye there is a clear coherence and binding narrative running through the middle of it, linking all the songs together. Maguire’s haunting vocals and the beautiful use of piano and strings produce a lush yet sparse feel to many of the tracks. It is by no means an easy listen but who said music has to always be commercial and consumable? If you prefer your music deep, dark and dramatic, if you want every lyric on every line to have meaning and not just placed there to advance a melody then A BIT OF BLUE might well be your colour.
This is Emily’s fifth album and a brave one indeed. Stripped back with consciously low-key accompaniment, here both her songs and her voice are exposed, with the effect time and again not of exposing weaknesses but of highlighting her strengths in both departments.
The album’s title, again a bold move, inevitably recalled Miles and Joni (as indeed does the cover design). Musically and vocally, she is able to live up to both (and one should say the title track sounds like the greatest record Kate Bush never made).
The 10 original songs which occupy most of the album are deeply personal but never in an introverted, self-indulgent way: rather they communicate personal truths, even in a deliberately generic folk-style song like ‘Banks of the Acheron’.
The last song in the cycle (I assure it is absolutely fair to call it that) is ‘I’d Rather Be’ which positively assaults her own bipolar disorder (tackled in a different form in her autobiographical book ‘Start Over Again’). It is a joyous affirmation of optimism despite all.
Then comes the bravest move of all – a gorgeous, breathy, deeply considered interpretation of Sandy Denny’s ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ sung against atonal atmospherics that perfectly realise it as a trip into the unknown.
A richly rewarding and deeply satisfying album that deserves your fullest attention.
Welsh Country Magazine
Singer/songwriter Emily Maguire, British-born, her personal journey fast-tracked her from the Australian bush to the Albert Hall. Well that’s some journey. The album ‘A Bit Of Blue’ has taken her over three years, but all I can say is, it’s worth the wait! her vocal trademarks of emotive, rich songs along with elegant instrumentation and crystal pure vocals are on this album in abundance. Don’t miss listening to this lady.
Cherwell Oxford Review
There is something irresistibly lovable about Emily Maguire’s voice – it seems to swell silence the world around it, putting everything out of focus except for the low, soft hush of her voice. But ‘a bit of blue’, her first album in three years, doesn’t just exhibit her beautiful singing: nearly every track is also written by Maguire, making this album seem a personal distillation of the singer herself.
But there’s more to this album than first meets the eye – Maguire has a painful story to tell. A classically trained musician, she was left unable to play her instruments for two years after contracting chronic tendonitis in her arms, triggering a long depressive period. This darkness comes through in her music, in lyrics such as those in ‘Stone and Sky’: “she’s alone in a cemetery / skulls and bones beneath her feet / used to be alive”. However, accompanied by the talented instrumentalist Nigel Butler, whose carefully crafted piano and guitar arrangements help to lift the music and carry Maguire’s voice along, this album manages to convey many colours and stories in her emotive, symbol-laden songs. Many stories seem to be drawn from Maguire’s personal life, such as the utter heartbreak in ‘The Words That I Could Say’.
“We knew we wanted [this album] stripped bare, haunting and as beautiful as it could possibly be”, Maguire says – and I think she and Butler have certainly achieved their aim. This music is bold in its sparseness, with Maguire’s beguiling voice put centre stage with no space to hide. Each track tells a different story, and the listener can’t help but be drawn in as Maguire weaves tale after tale together. The intimacy this manages to create is impressive – by the final track, you feel you know Maguire almost as a friend, and that you’ve experienced something together. An impressive feat for a singer-songwriter, and one Maguire manages to achieve with style.
Maguire’s work has been called “music for the soul” (Maverick Magazine), and I can’t help but agree with this. From the heartbreak of losing your dreams in ‘Getting Older’: “I’ll still be young before I’m old / getting older nothing changes”, to the pain of miscarriage: “a hole is left inside / where a heart once beat, and now it’s gone”, Maguire has the ability to summarise the experiences many of us feel, and to express them perfectly in her music. Although most of the songs are about traumatic, saddening events, there is certainly beauty and joy in this album too – with all these emotions resonating long after the final track has finished.
Southern Daily Echo
The story surrounding this Cambridge born singer songwriter is extraordinary, worthy of a (published) book itself.
Classically trained she went from living in a shack in the Australian Bush to supporting Don McLean at the Royal Albert Hall whilst also overcoming serious illness.
Her classical roots shine through these fragile and emotive songs, examining subjects as diverse as heartbreak, hope and corruption, all delivered by her uniquely crisp yet soothing vocals.
If you are ever seeking an album to uplift your mood, then this would be it. Bird Inside A Cage is Emily Maguire’s fourth album that she has recently released.
The album consists of many uplifting tracks that make you feel inspired and relaxed; the instrumentation of the music contrasts Emily Maguire’s voice perfectly. Each track has its own journey and when listening to them you can find at least one thing about them you can relate to whether it’s about love, self discovery or self belief.
The first track that you are introduced to is ‘Beautiful’ and this song is just that. The lyrics are amazingly written and her vocals do justice in expressing them, which is comforting to listen to. Many of her songs have this element of contentment like ‘Over The Waterfall’, where I find myself transfixed by the deep meaning of the song. The reason for this is because I feel like she is singing about her inner battle of her bipolar disorder and dealing with it which she has been incredibly open about in the media.
Emily’s voice is extraordinary, soft, compelling and there is a definite sense of emotion that draws you in. My favorite tracks off this album are ‘Beautiful’, ‘Over The Waterfall’ and ‘Avatar’, these three songs for me are incredibly relatable, especially ‘Over The Waterfall’.
A sincere shift from her previous work, ‘Bird Inside A Cage’ is Emily Maguire’s first album for a number of years and, like her earlier records, has been gestated under the influence of trauma and personal difficulties. The shift is in terms of scale and production.
This time she has fallen into the mentorship of renowned producer Nigel Butler. Butler takes her usual starkness and adds a lush vibrancy that still delivers her powerful lyrical authority but with a different punch. The simple piano intro to the first track ‘Beautiful’, is all that is needed to aid this transition before strings and guitar rhythms take hold and allow the songs to soar.
The healthy beat continues through the rolling piano and drums of the liberating ‘Rain’ and the quivering natural simplicity of ‘Bicycle Made For Two’. Even with the underlying themes of struggle and daily reprieve these songs have escalating release; ‘Over The Waterfall’ is as powerful as they come. Then, in a second, she skilfully brings the pace down to nostalgic joy with ‘Old Valentine’ in order to prepare us for the title track and its selfless humility.
Wir alle kennen diese Momente, in denen wir glauben in einem Käfig zu sitzen. Manchmal ist es ein goldener Käfig, doch Käfig bleibt Käfig. Betrachtet man die Geschichte der Emily Maguire so könnte man denken, dass die Schicksalsschläge einen solchen um sie herum entstehen lassen. Mit musikalischer Leichtigkeit biegt sie die Gitterstäbe auseinander und wandert ausgelassen hinfort.
Das Album kann man sowohl im Hintergrund laufen lassen als auch vordergründig in sich aufnehmen. Letzteres ist unbedingt zu empfehlen, da sich beim aufmerksamen Lauschen erst die Intensität der Texte und Kompositionen herausstellt. Natürlich erfindet die Singer-Songwriterin die Popmusik nicht neu, aber die Mischung machts eben.
Laut Info würde mein persönlicher Favorit “Over the Waterfall” auch als neue Adele-Single durchgehen, ich sehe da eher eine Nähe zu Tanita Tikaram. Eine weitere Entdeckung auf der Reise durch die Musik ist “Dont speak”. Emily Maguire beweist in den beiden genannten Stücken, nicht nur, dass der Inhalt der Texte wichtig ist, sondern unterstreicht eben auch ihr Händchen für die lyrische Ebene. Auch der Titeltrack hat es in sich, wenn er tempotechnisch eher im ruhigen Bereich angesiedelt ist. Aber so kommt die Stimme etwas mehr zum Tragen. Was auch auffällt, ist dass alle Songs recht eingängig gestrickt sind und es sich ein wenig im Ohr gemütlich machen.
Die Musik ist schön, wie so mancher (leider) im Käfig gefangener Vogel. Der Künstlerin gelingt es mit “Bird inside a cage” eindrucksvoll aufzuzeigen, dass ihre Erfolge erarbeitet sind und auf ihrem Talent und Können basieren. Wem es noch nicht gelungen ist, aus jeder Situation das Positive zu ziehen, dem dürfte das mit der Musik der Emily Maguire ohne Anstrengung glücken.
Acoustic Shock (Germany)
Es gilt mittlerweile als Experiment und Fallstudie Kindern iPads, Smartphones und ähnliches über eine Woche vorzuenthalten. Mit dem Ergebnis, daß tatsächlich mal wieder etwas “Produktives“ unternommen wurde. Für Emily Maguire hat sich in ihrer Kindheit schon die Frage eines Fernsehgerätes zuhause nicht gestellt. Somit schenkt sie Büchern und Musik ihre Aufmerksamkeit, erhält eine klassische Ausbildung an Cello, Piano und Flöte und bringt sich in der Folge selbst das Gitarrespielen bei. Als Einflüsse gelten Bach, Bob Marley and Buddha. Insbesondere durch die jeweilige Zuflucht und als Aufrichter in der schweren Zeit nach einem Autounfall mit 17 begründet. Dieses Ereignis und die daraus resultierenden Folgeschäden auch Antrieb für die Londonerin eigene Songs zu schreiben. Sie zieht von London nach Australien und veröffentlicht dort (auf dem mit ihrem australischen Mann gegründeten Label) die ersten beiden Alben “Stranger Place“ (2004) und “Keep Walking“ (2007). Gekennzeichnet von einer besonderen Willensstärke, zum Nachdenken anstoßenden Lyrics und dem offenen Umgang mit sich und anderen, gleicht jeder Song einer Geschichte.
Diese Merkmale, sowie die gleichermaßen ausdrucksstarke wie bezaubernde Stimme von Emily Maguire tragen auch das vierte Album über die komplette Lauflänge. “Bird Inside A Cage“ ist ein ansprechend vorgetragenes, sauber produziertes Gefühlswerk, das durch seine leichten Melodien in der Lage ist den Hörer mitzunehmen. Die Single “Beautiful“ zwischen Elfengesang und Radio Pop Nummer. ”Don’t speak” irgendwo zwischen den “Corrs” und “Amy Mcdonald”. “Rain“ rückt das Piano stärker in den Vordergrund, während “Bicycle made for two“ mit seiner gewissen Reduziertheit eine intime Atmosphäre schafft. “Over the waterfall“ erhebend und wie für große Hallen geschaffen. Balladen und Mid Tempo Nummern, die durch mit Herz und Harmonien überzeugen. Produziert von Nigel Butler (K.D.Lang, Tom Jones, Will Young, Robbie Williams) eine Platte, die auch in deutschen Radiostationen mehr Beachtung finden sollte.
Anspieltipps: “Beautiful“, “Bicycle made for two“ und “Over the waterfall“
Dass die K?nstlerin aus England selt ihrer Jugend mit Depressionen zu kämpfen hat, kann man den Press-verlautbarungen entnehmen und vielleicht noch den Texten, wenn man den selbst geschriebenen Songs sorgfaltig lauscht. Die Musik jedoch is kraftvoller, energischer Singer/Songwriter Rock mit vielen leichten und ?berschäumenden Popelementen.
It’s a sad reflection on the weirdly skewed state of the British music scene that the recording of the fourth album from gifted singer-songwriter Emily Maguire was only made possible through the generosity of her devoted fans, who were only too happy to dip into their pockets to fund her latest independently released long-player.
Bird Inside a Cage represents a tuneful showcase for the talents of an artist who cites interests as diverse as Bob Marley, Bach and Buddha, with Beautiful and the passion drenched title tune emerging as the cream of the crop.
Four albums in and the time was right for Emily Maguire to drag in the big guns to polish up her sound and, with the redoubtable Nigel Butler behind the desk, the result was always going to be professional.
That, however, does not detract from what has always been Ms Maguire’s strong point for, despite the proper and elegant construction of the songs on this album, her lyrics are always very personal and never seem the work of a doing it for the money wordsmith.
The fragility of the opening song “Beautiful” is a case in point. The arrangement is elegant and easy on the ear yet the feel is still natural and affecting. You feel – there’s that word used twice in the same paragraph – that Ms Maguire is speaking straight from the heart. Talking of heart, “Don’t Speak” confirms the presence of an artist who isn’t afraid to wear said heart on her sleeve.
It isn’t all soul searching though as “Bicycle Made For Two” displays a certain playfulness as if Ms Maguire had reached back into Melanie’s back catalogue for inspiration. A song like this, even though some may see it as a mere throwaway, will likely be the hook that gets you to play the rest of the album and, if that doesn’t work, then the Fiona Apple style “A Rose Is Nothing” is waiting to further entrap your attention.
Full marks to Nigel Butler for managing to put a shine on Emily Maguire’s sound without losing the essence of what makes her special. She has always been a serious songwriter but this time around there are enough songs to catch the attention of the casual listener and cause them to ponder her deeper, darker songs. A job well done, I would say.
Emily Maguire has had a story like journey these past few years, from cheese making in Australia, to BBC Radio 2 and the Albert Hall. Her long awaited fourth album, Bird Inside a Cage, has finally arrived, and believe me, it is worth the wait!
The album was produced by Nigel Butler, one of the producers on X Factor, who has worked with artists ranging from K.D.Lang and Tom Jones to Will Young and Robbie Williams. Emily explores a sound which at times brings to mind that of Sarah McLachlan as she blurs the lines of genre.
The deeply moving title track of the album was inspired by the story of Melanie Reid, a Times journalist who was paralysed in a horse-riding accident in 2010, writer of the paper’s regular Spinal Column. On encountering Melanie’s article describing her first year in a wheelchair, Emily was inspired to write Bird Inside a Cage for her.
The opening track, Beautiful, is the standout track for me; a lovely message, as Emily says, ‘For women everywhere,’ which deserves massive radio play.
Over The Waterfall articulately tells Emily’s own story, whilst North and South and Bicycle Made for Two are lyrically very strong, augmented by Emily’s wonderful piano playing, husband Christian Dunham on bass and the stunning musical production.
I could wax lyrical all day, but suffice to say that everyone needs this CD in their collection; whilst you’re at it, get her earlier albums if you don’t already have them. Listen out for her on radio as I suspect some of these songs are going to be big radio hits. She is also touring the UK later this year; check out the dates and see her performing near you.
With a talent born of adversity, singer / songwriter Emily Maguire has created a fourth album of her finely-crafted songs. Released independently on her own label, the ten-track album has been financed by her fan-base, whose generosity was overwhelming (one single donation was of £1000).
Born in London, Emily was classically trained on cello, piano and flute, but was struck down by an illness which kept her hospitalised and housebound for years. “It wasn’t all negative,” she says now. “It gave me the time and space to discover song-writing and learn guitar.”
For four years, she lived an eco-friendly, self-sufficient lifestyle in a shack in the Australian bush. Her last album, Believer, was released three years ago and spawned a number of tracks that made the Radio 2 playlist.
This new album is full of her emotive, lyrically-driven songs. She is subtle yet strong in her lyrics and sensitive in her string arrangements which flesh out some of the songs.
Producer Nigel Butler has worked in the past with the likes of Tom Jones, Robbie Williams and Dizzee Rascal, as well as being a producer on The X Factor. He has transformed Emily’s tunes into landscapes of sound, yet some – like Bicycle Made For Two – are quite minimalistic. The uptempo and rhythmic Don’t Speak contrasts with the delicate Rain which is musically dominated by keyboards.
For those who like their music a bit quirky with some character, the syncopated rhythm of Old Valentine is a must-listen. And the jaunty A Rose is Nothing is put into stark perspective by the title track which closes the album and is about a life that is changed overnight. A riding accident left Times journalist Melanie Reid paralysed, and the track is dedicated to her.
Eleven years after a car crash causing a long lasting recovery London born Singer/Songwriter Emily Lucy Maguire (vocals, acoustic guitar, piano) packed her bags and went to sunny Queensland, where she founded with her Australian friend and musical partner Christian Dunham (bass, drum programming, string arrangements) her own record label Shaktu Records. On her new fan funded album they are joined by producer Nigel Butler (electric guitar, keyboards).
They start off with the beautiful piano ballad “beautiful”; Emily’s powerful singing is accompanied by a symphonic arrangement. Emily sings “bicycle made for two” to acoustic guitar, the band joins in and creates a romantic song, “north & south” is a melancholic rock ballad and on “old valentine” Emily inspires with soft and whispering to breath-taking soprano singing. Other highlights are “avatar”, a powerful love song written by Emily and British singer/songwriter Marli Harwood, and the dramatic title song where Emily ponders about fate.
The music of Emily Maguire is not new, rather mainstream, but there are plenty of money making Top Ten acts who could learn a lot from her. Great song writing, brilliant singing and perfect arrangements make you wonder why she isn’t on top.
The Weekly News
When your fans pay to get your album released, you must be doing something right — Emily Maguire’s fans reckon she can do no wrong!
The British singer-songwriter has had an incredible life already, and if her wonderful new album does as well as it deserves to, the next episode is about to begin.
From Australian cheesemaker to Albert Hall star, from chasing mice out of her piano to helping people cope with depression, Emily’s a musician like no other.
“I suffered badly, at 16, with fibromyalgia,” recalls the beautiful singer, “but it ended up being a good thing, as while I was stuck at home for so long, I learned to play the guitar. As a kid, I’d already learned flute, viola, cello and piano, but now I could write songs, and I wrote over 100 at that time.
“When I was getting better, I decided to move from London to the Australian bush — as you do! — where I lived in a shack with my partner, Christian Dunham. We started our own recording studio there, and it was really unusual. The walls were made of potato sacks, the bathroom floor was made from river pebbles, and there were often mice hiding inside in the piano. “
When we weren’t making music, we made cheese. Goats’ cheese is very popular in Australia and, though I’m not a good cook, I was a good cheesemaker!”
Emily’s first two albums did well, and she performed across Britain to rave reviews, even doing a tour as support to Don Maclean, of American Pie fame. “
We came over to Britain in 2007 for a tour of pubs and clubs,” Emily recalls, “and someone sent a CD of one concert to a DJ at Radio 2, along with a nice box of chocolates.It must have been the chocolates, because they played it! I was meant to get on a plane back to Australia a few days later, but a music manager heard it and asked if I’d tour with Don Maclean. “
It took all of two seconds to say yes, and I went from making cheese in Queensland to performing in front of thousands at the Royal Albert Hall. Meanwhile, back in Australia, customers were phoning to ask where all the cheese was — they were being told: ‘Emily’s not here to make more cheese, she’s performing at the Albert Hall, you know!’ and the customers were screaming: ‘We don’t care, we just want more cheese’!”
She doesn’t just supply gorgeous music and lipsmacking cheese — Emily, who’s suffered with bipolar disorder and severe depression, wrote a book about her struggles, and one of her songs was chosen as the anthem for a Defeat Depression campaign. “
I’ve played for patients in psychiatric wards,” she says, “and they enjoyed it. First, I read a bit from my book, so they know I suffer, too, and the music really helps.”
That sensitive, caring side — unlike many a music star we could mention — has made Emily extremely popular with her growing band of fans. “
We spent all the money we had to get the latest album produced by Nigel Butler, who’s worked with Robbie Williams, KD Lang, Tom Jones, Will Young and others,” she explains. “Unfortunately, it cost an awful lot. We had no money left to release it, so I made a video telling everyone who’s on my fanbase.I was astonished to see people send in money, some complete strangers sending £1,000! There were also people who sent 20 quid and were sorry they couldn’t send more. It’s just fantastic, to know people want the record to be out that much.”
And fantastic to have such an unusual, wonderful songwriter doing things her own way. Bird Inside A Cage, the new album paid for by the fans, is out on July 15 on Emily’s Shaktu Records label, No. SHK2104. Her book, Start Over Again, is in all good bookshops, and her website is www.emilymaguire.com.
Get Ready To Rock
GRTR! only ‘discovered’ British born singer songwriter Emily Maguire with the release of her third album – ‘Believer’ – in 2009. As a calling card it was a sufficiently strong hand to make me browse her back catalogue and the real jewel to be unearthed is her magnificent debut album ‘Stranger Place’ (2004) – a sparsely instrumented collection of laid back songs recorded in Queensland, Australia which have a wonderfully earthy groove.
Classically trained on piano, cello, recorder and flute, a trip that started as a backpacking trip led to an invite to the Borderline festival in London, but Emily retreated to her new Aus base turning her hand to organic goat’s cheese production to finance her 2nd album ‘Keep Walking’ (2006).
Returning to play the Cambridge folk festival in 2007, fate deal another card when a fan sent a copy of her album to the BBC, and subsequent Radio 2 airplay was picked up on by the Waterboys manager who signed her up to support a 16 date tour by Don Mclean. Dates with luminaries such as Paul Brady, Eric Bibb, The Blue Nile, Glen Tilbrook and Roddy Frame followed.
‘Believer’ recorded in London, won rave reviews and had two singles play listed on Radio 2. A seven month tour with Dennis Locorriere, the former lead singer of Dr Hook, gave her the chance a give it an extensive live airing and win over new fans.
And so, on to ‘Bird Inside A Cage’- an album financed by her fans following a direct video appeal, and one that sees Emily’s sound continue to evolve. While numbers like ‘North And South’ have a direct line of sight back to her debut, her vocals have taken on a more ethereal quality with greater focus on the upper end of her range, while producer Nigel Butler (one of the producers on X Factor) has created cinematic soundscapes that complement Emily’s own string arrangements.
It pushes her overall sound more into the mainstream arena occupied by the likes of Sarah McLachlan and sees Emily treading that delicate tightrope that balances singer songwriter and pop sensibilities. And if you get a chance, check out her debut album as well.
Emily Maguire, the British-born singer/songwriter whose remarkable personal journey took her from Australia to the Albert Hall faster than the Bullet train, is about to release her first album in three years, Bird Inside A Cage. This long awaited fourth album has been entirely financed by her fanbase after a direct video appeal which by-passed the well-known fan-funded music platforms. It is truly a ‘people’s album’. Released on July 15th, the 10-track CD is a bold departure from Emily’s previous recordings while still retaining all the underlying trademarks of her elegant, emotive, lyric-rich songs. By turns ethereal, haunting and sultry, the narratives range from the understated to the unflinching, from the subtle to the pack punching, all underpinned with Emily’s own string arrangements.
Listing influences from Bob Marley to Bach and Buddha, London-born Emily was classically trained as a child on cello, piano and flute. Her song-writing was born from adversity. In her 20s she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Pain Syndrome, an illness which attacks the nervous system and which kept her hospitalised and housebound for years. But, as she says, “It wasn’t all negative – it gave me the time and space to discover song-writing and learn guitar from Bob Marley songbooks!”
A few years later, back on her feet and fed up with grey skies and concrete, she decided to leave her London flat for a shack in the Australian bush. There she set up her own record label, Shaktu Records, with partner Christian Dunham and for the next four years lived an eco-friendly, self-sufficient lifestyle, financing her music and tours by making and selling goats cheese on the family farm in Queensland. They had a recording studio from where they produced two fine albums – her debut Stranger Place and Keep Walking (the title track of which was playlisted on BBC Radio 2 and across Australia on ABC). The shack itself had walls made of rendered potato sacks and a bathroom floor of river pebbles with mice in the piano, enormous spiders, bats and a python called Dudley….
Emily’s breakthrough came in 2007. In the unpredictable nature of the music business, after completing a three month UK tour of pubs and clubs and about to step on a plane back to Australia, she landed the sort of offer you don’t turn down – an out of the blue support slot on the UK/ Ireland tour of US singer/songwriter Don “American Pie” Maclean, climaxing in a show at the Royal Albert Hall. Remaining in her native UK Emily went on to play at some of the most prestigious venues in the country with the likes of Eric Bibb, Paul Brady, Glenn Tillbrook and Roddy Frame. Her third album Believer, recorded in London, won rave reviews in Uncut, Maverick, R2 and Guitarist Magazine with two singles playlisted on Radio 2.
Then followed the publication of her book Start Over Again (2010). Emily went public about her own experience of bipolar disorder and performed a series of gigs in psychiatric hospitals for patients, staff and carers – they were moved and inspired by her songs about surviving mental illness and her belief that it can be a positive thing for creativity. Her uplifting song Keep Walking was chosen as the anthem of the Defeat Depression campaign.
The following year Emily toured the UK for seven months with Dennis Locorriere, the former lead singer of Dr Hook, a tour that took in almost every key theatre in the country. Despite some setbacks and challenges, Emily began work on her next album, contacting her fanbase to help finance the independent release. She was overwhelmed by the response (which included gifts of £1,000 from complete strangers).
As Emily said, “Bird inside a Cage wouldn’t have seen the light of day without my fans’ generosity. Everything we’ve achieved over the past 10 years has been made possible by the involvement of people who love my songs and believe in me” Bird Inside A Cage is produced by Nigel Butler. Known to TV lovers as one of the producers on X Factor, Nigel has worked with artists ranging from K.D.Lang and Tom Jones to Will Young and Robbie Williams, producing hits for Dizzee Rascal and many top pop acts. Butler has transformed Emily’s skilfully crafted songs and arrangements into lush, cinematic landscapes of sound, while still leaving some songs in more intimate stripped back settings.
The title track of the album was inspired by Melanie Reid, a Times journalist who was paralysed in a horse-riding accident in 2010 and who writes the paper’s regular “Spinal Column”. On reading Melanie’s article describing her first year in a wheelchair, Emily was moved to write ‘Bird Inside a Cage’ for her. Full of visual imagery and laid-bare feelings, the album ranges from the soulful Beautiful and rhythmic Don’t Speak, to the delicate, keyboard-driven Rain, the edgy roller coaster ride of Over the Waterfall, the quirky syncopated shuffle ofOld Valentine and the gentle Bicycle Made for Two. Avatar is a showstopper and the album ends with the title track about a life changed overnight.
Full of vibrancy and blossoming with an abundance of talent and passion, music for the soul…
I absolutely recommend this album! What a wonderful way to start my New Year of reviews with this masterpiece of an album. Featuring beautiful lyrical content, magically combined with vocals that are moving and compositions that fill the soul with resolve. With influences including Bach, Bob Marley, and Buddha, the ultimate soul music, this is full of vibrancy and blossoming with an abundance of talent and passion.
The opener ‘Free’ is a ballad of power and has the ability to move. This singer-songwriter’s style is captivating and exciting and her vocals are powerful with the ability to do the softened love song and the poignant ballad. ‘Anything You Do’ has to be one of my favourite songs on the album, it’s a beautiful love song and is marvellously shaped with vocals that are feminine and resound like a lullaby about your head.
Emily’s perspective on the world is formed partly of the many spiritual beliefs she holds close to her heart but also of the love and live nature of her personal life. This is conceptualised throught this entire album and for that reason it’s intriguing and mesmerising to absorb some of these wonderful songs. They run deep.
‘Believer’ is another wonderful song, painting an image of the idea that if you believe, then anything is possible. ‘Cos I could be counted, not counting. And I could run and hide away, hide away. I try to be wanted and wanting, to keep away the loneliness, the lonely’.
‘Brave New World’ is about reaching your limits and finding your own path in a world that is breaking boundaries. ‘You shouldn’t walk that way, you shouldn’t try to call. You shouldn’t cry at all, and you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t fall. You shouldn’t walk that way, you shouldn’t talk that way. You shouldn’t try to say, in a brave new world.’
I think this song is a milestone for the album, and for writing in this way. The message is poignant, pointing out that in a world where anything is possible, how can we be continuously told that we’re not doing things the right way, that whenever we fall it’s a failure.
R2 (Rock’n’Reel) Magazine
A relatively new voice to get excited over, Australia-based English singer-songwriter Emily Maguire has already impressed enough to have been invited to support Eric Bibb, The Blue Nile, Paul Brady and Don McLean. Believer is her third album, the follow-up to 2006’s Keep Walking, which helped establish Maguire as a talent to be reckoned with.
A remarkably assured, hugely enjoyable set, Believer highlights Maguire’s strength as a writer of insightful, intelligent lyrics allied to a keen ear for melody. Her wonderfully warm but strong, supremely expressive vocals are the icing on the cake: this girl is here for the long haul, a true artist whose passion for her music is reflected in the care taken over arrangements and instrumentation.
Each carefully crafted track deserves praise but the beautifully judged love song ‘Anything You Do’, the restless, rockin’ ‘I’d Rather Be’ and the spiritually seeking title track reveal the diversity and depth of her talent.
The third and most accomplished album so far from this unusual singer-songwriter mixes a suitably breathy vocal approach with several styles. Ballads such as Wanting Time are truly lovely, but it’s the likes of I’d Rather Be that’ll have Sheryl Crow nodding sagely into her Tia Maria and Lucozade.
A series of live shows opening for such smart tunesmiths as Glenn Tilbrook and Roddy Frame goes part of the way to explaining why Maguire’s soft-focus folk pop is more worthy of attention than many in the crowded female singer-songwriter field. The voice boasts the eloquent diction of old hands like Sandy Denny or Judy Collins, but there’s a modern urban savvy and bite to ‘I’d Rather Be’ and ‘Brave New World’. Classically trained on piano and cello, Maguire puts her schooling to good use on the opulent title track and the exquisite ‘Lighthouse Man’.
There’s a steely resolve and individuality on the third album from Australian-based, English-born, classically-schooled Maguire, who delivers reflective meditations and energetic lust for life romps with equal aplomb. A class act.
Every release that Emily Maguire has made in the last few years has enhanced her reputation as a songwriter and “Believer” is no exception. She has the knack of taking big issues and bringing them down to a point where they are easy to understand, the think globally act locally philosophy via a songbook. It’s not preachy either, “Woke Up” is based on observation, you build on flood plains, you get flooded, it doesn’t rain for years you get a drought. It’s not rocket science, it’s commonsense. Emily Maguire spins it into words of wisdom and a tune.
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (USA)
I have to admit to initially being a tad disappointed by Maguire’s third release. Sure the songs are accessible and…wait a minute—that’s it! That’s what was bothering me about Believer so I put it aside temporarily. Since all established artists deserve more than just another listen, I set my subjectivity aside (a quirk of species which I find separates us from the divine all too often) and then “believer” opened up for me.
*Believer” is certainly no less melodic and mature as her previous discs, ’05’s Stranger Place debut and it’s mighty ’08 follow-up Keep Walking. Maguire’s honed sense of songwriting is evidenced by the transcendent ‘Lighthouse Man’, while the halcyon Fleetwod Mac-ish I’d Rather Be leaves her competition in the outback dust of her adopted continent and sports a Nelson Wilbury guitar lick to boot.
As a classically trained eco warrior, Maguire brings both passions to the fore. Woke Up brings “the ocean to our door” while her emphatic classical muse colors the pop movements of the luscious Autumn Leaves. Her vocals, recognizably expressive from album one, get better with age, and when she sings “I’m fifteen, I feel older than God” (Start Over Again) you know immediately and rightly you’re not within earshot of the your run-of-the-mill songwriter. No, no, you certainly are not.
Stalwart bassist and co-producer Christian Dunham leads guitarist Luke Potashnick and drummer Geoff Dugmore to deliver the subtlety and crunch (Believer) when the lady want it. Maguire has been and continues to be the real deal. You owe yourself a listen.
Emily Maguire is back with a set to rival Keep Walking, one of the Sunday Mercury albums of 2008. From the breezy pop of I’d Rather Be to the folksy Autumn Leaves, this will appeal to fans of KT Tunstall and Amy McDonald. She adds a little grit for opener Free, and goes gently green in Brave New World. But all of them pale beside the towering title track which somehow makes a drama out of a minor key change and emerges as one of the songs of the year.
Classic Rock Society
What a great selling point? Her debut album was financed by making organic goats cheese. Her home is an eco shack in Oz made from potato sacks, tin and recycled wood! However take away all the unique background and you are still left with another fine album brought to life by a classically trained and talented musician. I seem to remember covering Maguire’s debut album and being impressed then. ‘Believer’ is not your middle-of-the-road songwriter’s album – as evidenced on the balladic rocker and title track – but it is an album full of emotion and true imagination. Naturally it does contain voice (hypnotic and enticing), and acoustic guitar stuff because that’s what singer-songwriters do best, but there is a depth and enough enjoyment for the CD to have travelled from the studio CD player to my car where it will get plenty of ‘ear’ time! A wonderful wordsmith and a real talent!
Beautiful self-penned songs will lull the listener into a deep and relaxing trance-like state. This is music to wash away worries to. It comes as no surprise that Maguire has previously supported the likes of The Blue Nile. Her ethereal and gracious music occupies the same orbit. Stylistically, Maguire mixes genres, using country, rock and roots as the backdrop to her haunting vocals. A really beautiful record.
You can’t help but be cynical. A singer songwriter that leaves England for a goat farm in Australia the returns to England with some new songs and renewed ambition and then gets discovered. That’s the story of Emily Maguire and who am I to disagree with a press release.
“Believer” is her third album. Third albums are notoriously difficult. Fame either grabs the songwriter and leaves them with only songs about lawyers and limousines or fame avoids them and they descend into self loathing.
Fortunately, neither option seems to apply to Emily Maguire. This album instead displays a warm, and rather endearing, sentimentality. Her voice just soothes your ears. It really does. There were moments – as with “Anything You Do” or “Woke Up” – when that reviewer’s cynicism just got swept away being replaced by a curious feeling of satisfaction. It’s the sort of effect that Shelagh McDonald or Janis Ian has on me.
Whilst there is undoubted intelligence in her song writing, the presentation of the songs is unthreatening almost as if to disguise her true message. Emily Maguire sounds close to the mainstream but, given how well this album stands up to repeated plays, she is way too good to be dismissed as mere radio fodder. Pay attention to her – you will be rewarded.
Six years ago Emily Maguire left her London home, guitar in hand and headed for the outback of Australia, looking for a change in her life at a time of an emotional struggle. She had already discovered Buddhism as a centering influence in her life and, with some encouragement of new friends and peers, began the process of recording a few of the dozens of songs that she’d written. The result was Stranger Place, a surprisingly mature album of lyrical folk/rock. Word of mouth and gigs in her new homeland and back in London helped spread the word of a promising new singer and songwriter. By the time her second album Keep Walking was released in 2008, Maguire was receiving solid critical notice and a growing cult fan base.
New album Believer, out in the U.K. and Australia November 16 (no U.S. deal yet) isn’t as much a revelatory listen as it is an affirming one. There’s nothing remotely edgy or hipster-ironic going on here, just finely crafted songs that have that certain So-Cal Eagles/Fleetwood Mac aura to them — midtempo, pop/rockers and bittersweet ballads all delivered with Maguire’s warm, gently sanded vocals and spiritual lyrical themes. “I’d Rather Be” typifies the Believer style: chunky guitar riffs, mid-tempo rhythm kick, simple but memorable melodic structure and breezy, sing-along chorus. This is the basics done exceedingly well and a welcome reminder that sometimes playing it straight — and straight down the middle — has its own unpretentious rewards.
Peterborough Evening Telegraph
Classically trained English singer-songwriter Maguire is now based in Australia living an eco-friendly life. Citing Bob Marley, Bach and Buddha as her influences, her charming folk-pop songs have won her plenty of plaudits. Her third album should cement her status.
Collected Sounds (USA)
As soon as I opened this CD I remembered reviewing Emily Maguire before. Strangely what I remember the most is that she lived in a the countryside and made her own cheese. Well, that and that I really dug her music.
This album is great and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to actually put pen to paper and write about it.
Emily’s style is in the vein of Sarah McLachlan (Autumn Leaves), but I’d also say that there are times when she reminds me of Beth Orton (Brave New World), or Thea Gilmore (Lighthouse Man).
Lighthouse Man is the single and I can see why, it’s pretty catchy.
I also like the title track, Believer. But honestly the whole album is really good. If you like one song chances are you’ll like them all.
Twenty seconds in and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing fully to attention. This soft and rich voice is pouring out of the speakers and she is singing in an impassioned and passionate manner with no effort or strain.
Her vocals are perfectly matched to the lyrics and her observations on people and on her life and the world around her are both personal and universal – sometimes forehead-slappingly obvious to boot.
I am hearing echoes of Laura Nyro here and even Nick Drake but the music is original, difficult to pigeon-hole and moving: this isn’t folk but it isn’t pop or “Singer-Songwriter” either though it has elements of all of these. What it is is sophisticated and adult and witty and involving. This is the music that the four characters in “Sex & The City” should be listening to when they are alone and not trying to impress each other.
Musically this is very, very good and the strings especially are delightful but the voice is the thing that will bring you back again and again – that and the songs.
This is one of those albums that does not benefit from the descriptions of a hack such as myself – experience this for yourself and benefit from a wonderful listening experience.
Call her a folk singer or singer/songwriter, Emily Maguire’s debut album is an unashamedly emotional collection of songs.The album deals with a 10-year period of virtual immobility resulting from a car crash. Maguire, who now lives with her snake in a tin shack in the Australian bush, has a voice that slips between the hushed and sultry and the brightness of a Brill Building starlet.
Emily Maguire, a Cambridge-born singer turned Australian goat farmer, has found herself catapulted to the foothills of fame by this, her second album. ‘Keep Walking’ collects songs of survival, as in the title track’s taxonomy of “better days and wetter days/red-letter days”; what lifts it above other singer-songwriter strum is her grasp of dynamics, rising from folky murmurs to anthemic stadium choruses in the space of a few bars. “Someday”, set in a field on the Isle of Purbeck, shows this gift at its best.
Courier Mail (Australia)
Emily Maguire is a lovely singer who sits comfortably in the new folk movement, spearheaded by her fellow Englishwoman Thea Gilmore. But Maguire now lives in a shack on a Kenilworth goat farm in the Sunshine Coast hinterland which gives her a different perspective and perhaps a crisper sound.
Like Gilmore, this is infectious stuff that grows with every listening, opening up more intriguing and engaging lyrical byways and some just right poppy hooks. Her own introduction to pop-folk is apparent (she is a classically trained cellist who mastered guitar from Bob Marley songbooks) but it’s her gorgeously understated vocal and dramatically arresting lyrics that get under your skin.
From the weekend party narrative of the title track (“She’s high Sunday night/Another line will see the light”) to the very funky and direct TV To Take It Away (“There’s bills to be paid and plans to be laid/Trinkets to trade and lands to invade”) you can dip into this like a magnificent Turkish mezze sprawling across a lunch table or pack it away for a picnic-for-one in a spot of rare beauty just for yourself. Another reason to believe there is a folk revival going on and it’s worth your attention.
It’s a good time for female singer-songwriters at the moment – from Mandi Perkins to Brandi Carlile, there’s finally a reason to replace the Tracy Chapman CD on your stereo. With her latest self-produced album Keep Walking, English-born Emily Maguire can add her name to this impressive roll call.
Now living in Australia with her partner Christian Dunham (with whom she runs the record label Shaktu Records, through which this album is released, and who plays bass on the album), Maguire lists her three main influences as Bach, Bob Marley and Buddha. Far from having a fixation with the letter B, it’s the perfect description of her music – classical, talking-to-the-people storytelling, sitting on just the right side of relaxation.
“Something” introduces you to the world of Maguire, and there are far worse ways to begin a journey. With a voice that mixes the best of Joni Mitchell and British songstress Dido, it’s a lilting reminder of how fleeting moments in life can be. When she sings,
Cos something has happened
Like a tear in the corner of my eye
Something in the air, I’m so scared
Of the endless, friendless goodbyes …
it’s with the knowledge that we all can relate exactly to what she’s singing.
Title track “Keep Walking” is a wonderful cross mixture of an upbeat melody tied to a darker lyric, which tells of a woman who needs cocaine to make sense of her life, even though she knows it could easily end that very life with one bad line. As Maguire herself states,
But she’s high Sunday night Another line will see the light … And you know something’s got to change …
Yet as much as her strength lies in slower-paced eulogies, Maguire also knows how to pick up both the pace and the mood with songs like “Standing.” Opening with a guitar riff not too dissimilar to the Lou Gramm classic “Midnight Blue,” it’s a message full of hope and how remaining positive, even on the darkest days, is what we should all strive for.
Using an enchanting combination of cello and violin with the more traditional instruments of choice, Maguire is able to at once sound familiar yet different. And it’s these instruments that make tracks like “TV To Take It Away” all the more powerful, with its warning about television desensitizing us to the true horrors around us, with the despondent opening lyrics
People keep dying on TV and I don’t know where I should be crying but somehow I just don’t care …
This is the beauty of Emily Maguire’s music – in one instant she can be assaying us with the sweetest melody, yet in another she can be breaking our hearts with nary a care. With a coveted slot at the Cambridge Folk Festival this July in the UK, as well as Keep Walking picking up airplay in her adopted Australia, it’s a bittersweet love affair that others may soon start to covet, and deservedly so.
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (USA)
“And there’s kids to be raised / and soldiers to slay / Preachers to pray / And TV to take it all away”.
With lyrics like that, Maguire instantly becomes an artist to listen for. And one can easily hear why she’s getting the buzz throughout the UK and her adoptive Australian wilds. No sir, this isn’t college girl journal entries. This isn’t your standard singer/songwriter stuff that the world sucks and woe, woe, woe. Maguire thinks these things out, and though she may not offer solutions (c’mon, she’s human after-all) she does offer camaraderie, that we’re in it together and together we’ll make a difference.
Besides her lyrics, what I appreciate most about Maguire is that you can’t pin her influences down. You’ll hear a lot of contemporary and the greats of the past in her music, but it’s never derivative. “Cos your life is a loan you can’t pay / You’re providing for kids you can’t save” she offers on the effortlessly melodic All That You Wanted. From the uplifting title track we have this everyday, though poetic observation: “And there’ll be better days and wetter days / Red-letter days, you pray there’s nothing wrong”.
Bassist Christian Dunham and drummer Shane Nesic provide Maguire a spacious and rhythmic palette for her invigorating vocals, full guitar, and one woman string ensemble. A classically trained cellist and pianist, Maguire understands how music moves the listener, and never fails to do so.
Babble And Beat (USA)
Emily Maguire is an extremely gifted English singer-songwriter-instrumentalist based on a farm in the Australian bush. ‘Keep Walking’ is her 2nd album.
Emily’s voice is gorgeous! Think of Tracey Thorn’s (Everything But The Girl), Dido’s and Paula Cole’s vocals equally mixed. The lyrics are candid, warm, and endearingly heart-on-sleeve. The musical arrangements are lovely as well… and they convey emotion & depth just as much as Emily does vocally and lyrically. Christian Dunham plays the bass, Shane Nesic plays the drums and Emily plays the cello, viola and violin.
All 12 tracks are pleasing but my personal favorites on ‘Keep Walking’ are:
All That You Wanted’ put a lump in my throat and brought tears to my eyes. This track is absolutely beautiful but at the same time it’s a powerful song about desperation and disappointment. This is such a personal song, and was obviously written about someone specific, but I’m confident that this track would strike a personal chord with anyone at some level and at some point in their lives.
‘One Good Thing’ – I really love this track! It’s more rock n’ roll than the others and although it’s about heartbreak it sheds some insight in a humorous way.
‘TV To Take It All Away’ – For me, this song shakes you into thinking about your reality: what’s really important, time that’s been wasted, and deceit versus truth.
‘Passing By’, ‘Wanted’, ‘Keep Walking’, and ‘Back Home’ are other highlights.
A musician who’s passionate about both Bach and Bob Marley?
Emily Maguire is another of those classically trained artists who has chosen to bring her skills across genres with a high degree of success. Maguire is an English singer-songwriter who lives on a goat farm in the Australian bush where she and her partner Christian Dunham operate her own record label.
Her 2004 debut album, Stranger Place, opened the door to prestigious venues across Australia and the UK. Keep Walking is a worthy followup to that first album and is exposing her to a wider audience, including in the U.S.
Classically trained as a cellist and pianist, Maguire taught herself guitar from Bob Marley songbooks. She started writing and singing in a folk venue while laid up with a bout of illness and, eventually, led her to a new career.
Her voice is soft and warm, though it can raise a few octaves when the passion warrants. There are elements of Paula Cole and Dido in her singing. Her voice may remind you of some other singers, but there’s nothing derivative about her music.
All 12 tracks are solid. Some personal favorites are the title track, the funky “TV to Take it Away” and the lovely “She Knows.”
We all take decisions to follow certain paths in life everyday. One such day Emily Maguire decided to give up her London flat and head for a shack in the Australian outback. Whilst based there she recorded her debut album the aptly named ‘Stranger Place.’ It proved to be a wise decision as it established her as a critically acclaimed artist down under. Then following a tour back in blighty Emily returned to her new home to record ‘Keep Walking.’
Initially the albums breezy facade betrays the fact that copious amounts of planning and playing went into this. Emily drew on existing skills as a trained pianist and cellist, then with borrowed violin and viola she creates her own string ensemble. Recruiting a bassist and a drummer to compliment her own guitar and voice completed the desired set.
‘Keep Walking’ the title track has already been playlisted on Australia’s ABC radio. It warrants its place there displaying plenty of commercial muscle. Emily says her intention was to ‘give people the same feeling you get when you go and look at the horizon above the sea and you get a sense of silence, space and possibility.’
Striving to fulfil this mission Emily does highlight some hefty universal themes of struggle, love and loss. This tends to work to best effect when her lyrics are more oblique. ‘Back Home’ benefits from some thoughtful moments,
‘So I go with the river, go where the river goes. And I flow with the river, I Know what the river knows.’
Whereas when tackling more topical matters on ‘TV To Take Away’ things become a little to literal. Not unlike a news report. There’s also a slight tendency to fall for some obvious words in the form of light, night, fight. Not enough though to really detract from what are songs that could be helping Emily into the mainstream spotlight.
Evolutionary dots could easily be joined from Joni Mitchell to Suzanne Vega to ‘Keep Walking.’ There’s Joni’s love of Jazz and Suzanne’s jagged guitar lines all in one sassy package. It’s ultimate strength lies in when the best elements converge. ‘Someday’ has the ideal swell of strings and longing lyrics that could move the most hardened cynic.
Emily Maguire doesn’t attempt to re-invent the wheel. And why should she? There’s already plenty of attention coming her way. We all sometimes need a sense of silence, space and possibility don’t we?
Collected Sounds (USA)
First I want to thank Emily Maguire and every other artist who includes his or her lyrics in the liner notes. I love to sit down with a record on the first listen and read along with the music. It somehow makes it so personal and intimate. This way I am able to really pay attention to the lyrics instead of thinking, ‘oh that maybe sounded cool, what did she say?’. So I got to listen to this one the way I most enjoy. Headphones, and lyrics in hand.
“Passing By” is a lovely song that has some funky rhythm stuff going on. Then Emily’s sweet subtle voice enters and it’s magical. You’re sucked in. Fuggetabouttit. The more I listen to this track the more I like it. It’s especially good on headphones.
According to her site, she is classically trained in piano and cello, added violin and viola and recorded all the parts herself to create her own string section. I tell ya, the cello and other strings really add to these songs.
“TV to Take it All Away” is a powerful song about how we know things are happening (war, hunger, crime) but it’s still kind of removed from us so we can ignore it. Even if just a little. It’s kind of got an eerie feeling. “Back Home” has some lovely harmonies that really show case her warm and comforting voice.
This whole recording is very solid. While there are songs I like more than others they are all good and special in their own way. This is a great collection of songs and Emily Maguire is a class act.
Operating her own record label from a charming shack within the Australian bush, one will find the lovely Emily Maguire.
Classically trained as both a cellist and pianist and self-taught with a guitar, Maguire eventually grew tired of the grey skies of London and uprooted her life to the countryside of Queensland, Australia, where she continued to write her songs and prepared for the release of her first album.
Stranger Place arrived in 2004 on her own, Shaktu Records, and won wide critical acclaim throughout Australia and opened the door to some prestigious venues. Most notable perhaps was opening for Gail Ann Dorsey, renowned bassist for David Bowie. She would then spend the next couple of years touring in support of Stranger Place, much throughout the U.K. and Australia.
Last year, Maguire encorporated violin, viola and cello into the recording of her follow-up, and literally became her own string ensemble, rounding out a sound that is made complete with the talents of bassist Christian Dunham and drummer Shane Nesic.
‘Keep Walking’ arrived earlier this year and has quickly made its impression. Following its launch in New York, ABC Radio in Australia quickly added the title-track track to its national playlist and Maguire has already booked another tour for the summer to support the record.
Dense with emotion and rich with thought-provoking lyrics, ‘Keep Walking’ is a sublime album to experience. Maguire’s voice possesses that rare timbre that gracefully streamlines its accompanying melody. It soars beautifully in the socially conscience ‘TV To Take It Away’ and carries the uplifting energy in the motivating ‘Keep Walking.’ On ‘Passing By,’ a listener can sense a tinge of mystery and eerieness, much in part to the song’s beautiful strings and Maguire’s cool delivery. And on ‘Wanted,’ Maguire’s cello seeps a deep hum that can easily instill chills. It doesn’t take long to realize you’re listening to something truly great.
This year will no doubt be a special one for Emily Maguire. She’s currently scheduled to attend the Cambridge Folk Festival in July and is planning an acoustic tour during the fall throughout the U.K. Hopefully, her growing audience of North American fans will have an opportunity to hear this remarkable songwriter in person. But until then, they have two incredible albums to enjoy by this incredibly gifted artist.
IndepenDisc Music Club (USA)
One of the things I really enjoy, and don’t get the time to do often enough, is sitting down, throwing on the headphones, and getting totally lost in the music and lyrics of an artist that goes leaps and bounds beyond. Emily Maguire is fabulous.
‘Keep Walking’ by Emily Maguire is an album that mixes hard, realistic social commentary from the perspective of one whose fragile state of mind will not be tied down to the norm and the acceptable response to which may or may not be under one’s control, with amazing musical construction built around electric acoustic guitar, bass, drums and strings.
Using studio production that is astounding and string arrangements that ring every drop of emotion from the songs, Emily (vocals, guitars & strings) and Christian Dunham (bass) have fashioned a decades and genre spanning piece of work that should be admired as a whole as much as for each individual song. Rounding out this group is Shane Nesic (drums), who has been playing with Christian as a rhythm section for over 20 years, and they fit Emily like a glove. Here, the tightness of the players resounds throughout; there is nary a wander as they drive the music and arrangements for maximum effect.
Packaging individual perspectives of everyday problems – from the most intimate to those experienced in general by all – Maguire and Co. touch us with the harrowing torment that these situations can produce. They do this all from the mindset of an individual who, at times, can be pushed to the edge. Yet, it is the expression of these conflicting scenarios and the solutions presented that push our involvement to a higher level than that of your average 3 minute pop song. Mixing a Suzanne Vega/Beth Orton type vocal/vocal arrangement with a solid writing sensibility a la Joni Mitchell/Joan Baez, while at times skirting Portishead territory, this album doesn’t let up until the final note.
Anchoring the CD, ‘TV To Take It Away’ lays out the decline/fall of mankind and TV’s role in not only bringing it to us, but also how it is there to convince us to ignore it. Using rich tribal drums with a powerful backbeat bass staying underneath to lend even more power to the acoustic picking, a tone of dire straights is set before the shallow echo of a distant, unattached vocal mocks the oblivious and the privileged in a social protest that haunts and shames us into further evaluating our social/global/human conscious.
“And there’s kids to be raised / And soldiers to slay /
Preachers to pray / And TV to take it all away”
“yes, it’s all OK / And it’s all alright /
yes, it’s all right.”
Built around this are 11 more songs that are each of significant importance to the overall make up of the album. The Title Track, ‘Keep Walking’, has an uplifting, mystical sound that celebrates the solace in a walk that also bears its own set of problems. ‘Passing By’ uses an ancient Gaelic sound with a downbeat backbeat to express the narrator’s questioning of the possible cruelty of God, and how it burdens the mind of a good person. In contrast, ‘Standing’ offers us an anthem to the spirit of man. Soaring, angelic backing vocals add chills to this feel-good, Champion-the-Heart, homage to those who weather the storm and can still stand and raise their fist high in the air.
‘Lately’ is an edgy Eleanor Rigby with string arrangements that echo ELO style classical leanings in a rock sensibility. It uses an operetta vocal (which Freddie Mercury would give anything to come back and perform) to throw it in the face of an ex who she’s not going to stick around for. While, ‘Wanted’ builds the perfect beast with Christian and Shane’s solid rhythm section underscoring Emily’s drenching vocals and by using a Cello and resounding electronic accents to construct a paranoid schizophrenic view of the need for solitude and the need to be loved. And, ‘One Good Thing’ breaks out a secret agent sinister, Talking Heads minimalist approach that channels both Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and Martha Davis (The Motels) in a song about almost losing it. Where, just when you think it’s going over the edge, they pull it back again, perfectly mirroring the plot.
‘All That You Wanted’ is where the brilliance of Emily Maguire (along with Christian and Shane) breaks through and shines with a passion that is simply astounding. The intense music and powerful vocals get the song caught in your throat and bring a tear to the eye. Its tragic beauty has the ability to choke you up in a manner reserved for weddings and funerals. Then, ‘Back Home’ continues the poetic beauty of song with a nod to the circle of life. Gorgeous acoustic picking brings forth a flow that leads to a final chorus of double tracked harmony that needs to be heard to be appreciated. I can find no words to describe its exquisiteness.
One of the things I really enjoy, and don’t get the time to do often enough, is going to a club to see, hear, and get totally lost in the music and lyrics of an artist that goes leaps and bounds beyond. I had the pleasure of attending the CD release party for Keep Walking by Emily Maguire.
Emily Maguire is Fabulous.
Time Off Magazine (Australia)
Bass-heavy drumming and questioning lyrics set a dark tone on album opener ‘The Real World’, but there are many moments of genuine light on Emily Maguire’s Stranger Place.
In fact, there’s a strong sense of mortality and spirituality throughout the English born, Sunshine Coast-based singer/songwriter’s record. Maguire sings of existence (‘The Borderline’), the slow decay of society (‘I Turned On The News’) and devotion (‘Falling On My Feet’). Rich, organic sounds dominate, as do Maguire’s strong vocals, which sit prominently in the mix.
Acoustic folk-pop is the order of the day, but Maguire plays around enough with the genre to keep it appealing. ‘The Borderline’ and ‘On The Radio’, for instance, strip things back to a gentle lull, while ‘You Do’ incorporates a Latin guitar feel. ‘I Thought I Saw’ is a pop highlight, a rare instant hit among a collection of songs that are likely to prove themselves more as time goes by.
Scene Magazine (Australia)
She has the kind of vocals that will melt your stereo. Emily Maguire came to Australia for a holiday last year and hasn’t left.
Taking time out to record in Australia, she has released a smouldering hard-hitting and socially aware album. Breathless and slinky, her voice is similar to that of Sarah Harmer, Sinead O’Connor and Joni Mitchell.
Blending her love of classical music (she is classically trained on cello, piano and flute) with passion for beautiful poetry, this singer-songwriter has released an organic album with simple acoustic riffs (‘The Borderline’ and ‘On The Radio’) and bluesy melodies [‘Stranger Place’].
If she doesn’t melt your stereo, she’s sure to melt your heart.
Tsunami Magazine (Australia)
In direct contrast to the girly-pop schmaltz currently infesting the airwaves, Stranger Place combines wisdom, hard hitting social commentary and beautiful poetry.
Strong, thought-provoking lyrics are the focal point, with bass, drums, multiple guitars and haunting cello painting a vivd background of musical imagery. Although often referred to as a female Bob Dylan in lyrical terms, her musical influences range from Beethoven to Bob Marley via Joni Mitchell.
In so many ways Stranger Place defies categorisation, spanning musical boundaries instead. From this debut album of original songs, it is clear that Emily Maguire is a consummate artist.
Beat Magazine (Australia)
When you listen to Stranger Place, you can feel the pureness and passion with which it was produced and completed. It is an observation, a story, and a hauntingly beautiful melodic voyage through the ebbs and flows of an individual’s existence in this world.
An English singer-songwriter now living in the ‘back of beyond’, Maguire’s style is a mixture of funky jazzy blues with some Joni Mitchell, Paula Cole and Natalie Merchant-style sounds.
Stranger Place is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy a female acoustic sound with strong focus on the words and melody. And anyone who teaches themselves to play guitar using Bob Marley songbooks has got to be good!
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (USA)
Three totally killer songs kick off Maguire’s debut. The throbbing The Real World; the utterly transcendent The Borderline (“If we are like water then which drop is me”) and the captivating If I Could See You.
Think about that for a sec. Any singer/songwriter would readily revisit Robert’s crossroads to sign a deal with the devil for an introductory salvo like that. Add the extremely sad fact that most artists today won’t have three killer tunes in a lifetime and you can see and hear how far ahead of the game you are with Stranger Place.
Though it’s easier here to spot her influences (Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant) than on her equally fine and defining follow-up Keep Walking, Maguire’s striking, real world lyricism renders Sarah and Natalie mute, while her emotionally textured arrangements—brought to life by bassist Christian Dunham and drummer Shane Nesic—never wander into Ani-like self indulgence.
Best listened to as a complete work of intelligent passion, other haunt-your-head tracks include Somebody, I Thought I Saw, Love Song and Stranger Place.