|Emily Maguire — A Bit of Blue (Feb 24, 2017)|
Emily Maguire — A Bit of Blue (Feb 24, 2017) ★♠•♠★ By turns ethereal, haunting and sultry, with narratives ranging from the understated to the unflinching, this much~anticipated fifth album bears all the trademarks of Emily Maguire’s emotive, lyric~rich songs.Emily desktop: The valley leading down from the Square & Compass in Worth Matravers
Recommended if You Like: Katie Melua, Sara Bareilles, Sarah McLachlan
Birth name: Emily Lucy Maguire
Born: 8 March 1975
Instruments: singing, acoustic guitar, cello, piano, recorder, flute
Location: London, UK
Album release: Feb 24, 2017
Record Label: Shaktu Records
01 Memory 4:15
02 Getting Older 3:57
03 A Bit of Blue 3:56
04 For Free 4:30
05 It’s Alright 3:22
06 Now Somehow 3:46
07 Banks of the Acheron 3:18
08 The Words That I Could Say 4:08
09 Stone and Sky 4:38
10 I’d Rather Be 4:35
11 Who Knows Where the Time Goes 5:03
℗ 2017 Shaktu Records Limited
¤ Produced by Nigel Butler, (K.D. Lang, Robbie Williams, Will Young)Review
Written by Mike Davies, 14 March, 2017
★♠•♠★ 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, atmosphericWho 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. ¤ http://www.folkradio.co.uk/
¤ 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. ¤ http://www.rock-n-reel.co.uk/
Lauren Barnett, 6 February 2017 / Score: ****
Artist Biography by Chris True
★♠•♠★ Stranger Place England~born singer and songwriter Emily Maguire had to remove herself from the rather dour climes of “Old Blighty” to a more basic way of life in rural Australia to work out, record, and ~ eventually ~ release her debut full~length. Having been trained as a classical cellist and pianist, Maguire found it no great leap to the guitar, and began writing songs. Her first full~length collection of these works, 2005’s Stranger Place, was recorded ~ according to Maguire ~ in a shack in the Australian outback. Eventually the record took off, and thanks to the single “The Real World,” Maguire found herself back in England, performing at the 2005 Borderline Singer/Songwriter Festival in London. Maguire toured England and the rest of the United Kingdom in 2006 before returning to her adopted land down under to write, record, and produce album number two. The album, which featured the talents of Christian Dunham on bass and Shane Nesic on drums, also included a “string section” arranged by and performed by Maguire herself. Entitled Keep Walking, the album was released by Universal in 2008, following a successful return jaunt to the U.K.
♠★ EMILY Maguire emerges from “two years out of action” with her fifth album A Bit Of Blue and a series of spring and summer dates that opens at Helmsley Arts Centre on May 13.
♠★ Classically trained as a child on cello, piano, flute and recorder, Emily taught herself the guitar and first started writing songs when she found herself stuck at home with a chronic illness called fibromyalgia pain syndrome.
♠★ Giving up her London flat, Emily lived an eco~friendly, self~sufficient lifestyle for four years in a shack assembled from recycled wood, tin and potato sacks on a farm in the Australian bush, where she made goats cheese to finance her first two albums, Stranger Place and Keep Walking.
♠★ On returning to Britain in 2007, she has since recorded the albums Believer in 2009, the fan~funded Bird Inside A Cage in 2013 and now A Bit Of Blue (presumably not a reference to her cheese~making prowess, but the depressive episodes that have blighted her).
♠★ The latest came after an intensive tour of Germany in June 2014, when Emily developed chronic tendonitis in both arms, forcing her to cancel all her gigs and leaving her unable to play her instruments for 18 months. In turn this triggered a severe depressive episode that lasted a year.
♠★ Now recovered, Emily has not only released her hauntingly beautiful, minimalist new album, but also published her second collection of poetry, prose and lyrics, Notes From The North Pole, put together during those dark days using dictation software as she was unable to type.
♠★ “My new album and book both came out of a dark time in my life so I feel very grateful that something good came out of something bad,” says the 42~year~ld Londoner. “I had a lot of support from my family, friends and fans, which made all the difference, and I am just so glad now to be playing music again.”
♠★ Emily speaks frequently in the media about combating the stigma of mental illness, featuring several times on BBC Radio 4 including on Woman’s Hour, Loose Ends and Midweek, where she was interviewed by Libby Purves in October 2013 about her earlier book, Start Over Again.
♠★ In that 2010 book, Emily told the story behind her songs, her journeys into psychosis, depression and bipolar disorder, and the hope and poetic beauty that emerge from the other side. Based on the verses of her song Start Over Again, this selection of Emily’s poetry, prose, song lyrics and personal diary entries offered an insight into the creativity of a manic~depressive mind.
♠★ Emily had hidden her condition for years until she finally decided to confront the stigma and publish her first book: “People said ‘you’re so brave’, but I didn’t feel brave, I just felt completely liberated. I could now talk about it. People could understand where these songs were coming from,” she says.
♠★ On her MySpace page, Emily cites Bach, Bob Marley and Buddha as her influences, and as a practising Buddhist for more than 15 years, she dedicates all her albums to her teacher, Lama Jampa Thaye.
|Emily Maguire — A Bit of Blue (Feb 24, 2017)|
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