On her second album, Burlington songwriter Mary McGinniss follows up her 2005 solo debut, Places in Between, with a series of loving tune poems written for family, friends, lovers and her hometown. Red Tails and the Road also documents McGinniss’ first collaboration with central Vermont recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist Kristina Stykos.
On many of the albums she has engineered in the past few years — Bow Thayer’s Shooting Arrows at the Moon, Brian Clark’s Solo Duo Trio and her own In the Earth’s Fading Light — Stykos has produced unadorned acoustic music that shows off the heart and the soul of the vocalists and their instruments. In the case of Mary McGinniss, that’s a great thing, because she has a rich singing voice, provides her own harmony, and accompanies herself on guitar and ukulele throughout Red Tails. Her playing is understated but solid. In other words, just enough to keep our attention on what’s most important: her insightful songwriting and luscious vocals.
On these songs, McGinniss writes about growing up in Burlington and other events and relationships that have shaped her life. There are songs about the pain of saying goodbye to parents, lovey lullabies for grandchildren, sweet love songs and even a song that asks, “Jesus Christ, what were you thinking?” Nine of the 12 selections on this disc are originals, two are jazz standards with uke accompaniment, and one is a composition by James McGinniss, Mary’s brother and a talented songwriter himself.
Red Tails and the Road is easy to listen to, but it certainly isn’t “easy listening.” McGinniss’ gently delivered words really count — the sentiments expressed have an iron core.
Mary McGinniss has been performing a series of CD-release house concerts in the area, and she sounds just as good in person as she does on this disc.