Soundbites: Ali McGuirk Goes Full Burlington, New Singles From Henry Jamison and Mikahely | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Soundbites: Ali McGuirk Goes Full Burlington, New Singles From Henry Jamison and Mikahely

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Ali McGuirk - COURTESY OF HANNAH COHEN
  • Courtesy Of Hannah Cohen
  • Ali McGuirk

You know how they tell you never to read the comments on social media? Sometimes it feels like the only way to maintain your sanity. I was a strict apostle of the Don't Read the Comments Church for years.

Unfortunately, I kind of need to read them these days, because feedback is important to my job. So I've been holding my nose and plunging through the trolls and bots to get to actual, real thoughts from readers. Fortunately, we also receive letters to the editor and a steady stream of email from readers, so I'm not just scrounging in the swamp.

One thing many of you have made clear is that you like the end-of-year lists. I decided to be a hipster in 2021 and not make one — no best album, no best single, nada, nothing. My reasoning was that it was a most peculiar year and deserved to be treated as such. But, lo and behold, though you seemed to enjoy knowing what local musicians were listening to, you also wanted the list.

Am I a big enough man to raise my hand and say, "My bad. I dropped the ball?" Fuck no. This is your fault, you list-addicted weirdos. But am I hungry enough for your approval to do the list next time? Oh, absolutely. My 2022 list will be such a list — no list will compare to how many things I will have listed. You'll see. You'll beg me to take things off the list!

Not for nothing: I think I'll have a lot more material to work with in 2022. Only a few weeks into the New Year, it's hard not to get excited by some of the music coming in. If even half of the local musicians I've talked to who are sitting on new albums release them this year, it will be a banner year for Vermont music.

One of the artists prepping to release a new record in 2022 is indie-soul singer-songwriter Ali McGuirk. The formerly Boston-based artist made a splash with her 2017 debut, Slow Burn, which established her as a rising star in the New England music scene. McGuirk's mix of soul and rock caught a lot of attention, thanks to her powerful voice and strong guitar chops. The Boston Globe named Slow Burn one of the top albums of the year. (Oh, damn, a list!)

During the pandemic, McGuirk took some advice from her friends Dwight + Nicole and moved up to Burlington. Though she has always admired Vermont from afar, she certainly hadn't planned on becoming a Burlington resident.

"I was just hanging out, really," she told me in a phone call. "Dwight and Nicole were so lovely and had me up here. It was more of a way to get out of Boston and clear my head a little. But then this apartment became available, so I just scooped it up."

McGuirk spent the next year writing a new album and traveling down to Providence, R.I., to record with producer and indie-folk musician Jonah Tolchin. She hopes to release the album in the summer.

In the meantime, she's put out a new single, a cover of the Bobby Womack hit "That's the Way I Feel About You." Signature Sounds, the folk imprint that's been home to Josh Ritter and Lake Street Dive, released the ballad, in which McGuirk's soaring vocals are reminiscent of Aretha Franklin's version. All proceeds from the track go to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.

"I'm so happy about that," McGuirk said of the fund. "Sweet Relief is incredible. Most musicians don't have insurance, so if something happens, it can be a bad scene. To have an organization that helps out if things go wrong is just so important."

McGuirk makes her long-delayed debut performance as a Burlington artist on Friday, January 28, at ArtsRiot, with support from up-and-comers All Night Boogie Band (more on them later). The show has McGuirk excited for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that, well, it's actually happening.

"We've had five shows in January alone get canceled," she revealed. "We were only able to hold on to the ArtsRiot show and a show in Greenfield, Mass. But those two shows feel like a lifeline. I really can't wait to play."

It will be the first time McGuirk has played in Burlington with a full band, having done only solo sets at Radio Bean in the past. She'll be taking another step toward embracing her new musical home.

"It's going to take a lot to get me to leave here now," she said with a laugh. "I just need things to open up again so I can make more friends!"

So I say, "Burlington, meet Ali. She's cool, has a great voice and plays a mean guitar." Not to get all Casablanca, but I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

That Single Life

Henry Jamison - COURTESY OF PATRICK MCCORMACK
  • Courtesy Of Patrick Mccormack
  • Henry Jamison

As I said, a ton of exciting new music is emerging from the Green Mountains in 2022. The singles have started dropping like Skittles from a magic Skittle tree. (Preteen Chris believed 100 percent that those trees were real.)

First up is the new single "Make It Out" from indie troubadour Henry Jamison. The Vermont native wrote the song with English singer-songwriter Maisie Peters, who provides harmonies as well as gorgeously delicate verse. A song of two lovers trying to rise above the noise and find each other, it delves into the hope of a connection more than the surety of one.

"Checked into the hotel / trying to keep an even keel / Would I go to hell, if I told you how I feel?" Jamison wonders over a gentle wash of acoustic guitar. The song hinges on a metaphor that keeps the two characters from communicating, though both are optimistic that they might rise above the noise outside the hotel room and leave together. The track is available to stream on Spotify.

Mikahely - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Mikahely

Madagascar-born Burlington musician Mikahely has released his new single, "Children's Rights." A fusion of modern folk and the traditional Malagasy sound, the song is upbeat, featuring deft guitar work by Mikahely and a rhythm track that builds in ornamentation as the song progresses.

The subject matter of "Children's Rights" is an ever-important one: giving the world's youth access to education. In the press release for the song, Mikahely describes growing up in Madagascar as one of five children.

"The family only had enough money to send one of the children to further their education," he wrote. Mikahely's parents chose his oldest brother, considering him the hope of the family.

Mikahely sings in both Malagasy and English on the track, displaying an effortless flow between them in his melodies. Recorded at Dax Studios in Belgium, the song also features a cameo from Malagasy musician Dada Ravalison.

Mikahely will follow up the single with a full-length LP titled Samby Tsara, Malagasy for "May we all be well." Go to mikahely.hearnow.com to check out "Children's Rights."

Wrapping up new singles this week is the aforementioned All Night Boogie Band. The relative newcomers to the Burlington music scene have announced themselves with the single "A Woman Like I."

A six-minute-plus blast of blues and soul, the track reveals a shocking amount of authenticity for such a young band. Massive, soulful vocals; big horns; and a powerfully tight rhythm section combine to create a huge blues sound.

It can't have been easy starting a band in 2021, but All Night Boogie Band have put in the work, gigging all across town. Catch them if you can with McGuirk at ArtsRiot to hear "A Woman Like I," or stream it on Spotify.