Tia McGraff – Diversity

CD Review Tia McGraff – Diversity

by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Bandana Records
Label: Independent
4 STARS 
1. Angry Eagle
2. Autumn Leaves
3. Lavender Tea
4. Tumbleweed
5. Radical Road
6. Lost Souls Left Luggage
7. Vega Star
8.Two Wolves
9. Fallen Down
10. Waggin’ The Dog
11. Cold As Steel
12.How Pale The Rose
13. Lighthouse
A diverse tapestry of eclectic styles offering different perspectives on life’s challenges
Whether it be attending her live shows or listening to her music this Port Dover, Ontario based songwriter never fails to disappoint, and on this her 5th album the trend continues. DIVERSTY contains many different elements both musically and emotionally. It was released in August 2010 and the songs were written over a 2 year period. Tia has 2 individual credits and she co-writes with her songwriter/producer and husband Tommy Parham on 10 other songs.
The project described as “challenging”, began by recording in their home studio and in this digital world files were shared with musicians from LA and Nashville and string arranger Scott Brasher who is an award-winning film/television music composer, based in Music City. Collectively they contributed their parts and returned the files. This project reaches out from an acoustic/country to an Adult Contemporary audience. Its quality was recognised in November 2010 winning Best Country Recording on The Year at the Hamilton Music Awards.
On the opener Angry Eagle the dramatic orchestral intro sets the scene for 2 verses in which the frustrations of American families struggling in recession hit times are vented. McGraff emotional sings: ‘A mother of 3 cries alone / Wonders how in God’s name she’ll save their home? While the mortgage lender sells their dream’ from there the track evolves on the third verse where hope and compassion shines, ‘But then I see a child playing / and a stranger smile and a Church sign reads “all are welcome” ‘– Let the bells ring out for freedom! This typifies the trademark McGraff craft, offering both a sensitive and positive message, on a track that could easily have been used in a TV documentary.
Autumn Leaves’ is used as a metaphor to describe a woman aging gracefully but is left to feel neglected in the relationship. Where once there was love her man took her dreams and turned them all from crimson to brown. In contrast on the gently, sensitive sweet love song ‘Lavender Tea’, love is appreciated along with life’s simple pleasures – what could be better than sharing a cup together.
On the albums 4th cut this marks a return to collaborating with Moelfre based singer-songwriter Henry Priestman of The Christians along with Liverpudlian guitarist Pete Riley who via the track ‘Devils Gold’ on Tia’s DAY IN MY SHOES album became part of a project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the famous Royal Charter shipwreck. In this instance on the delicate, heartfelt ‘Tumbleweed’ this cinematic south western piece has a True Grit feel to it depicting aspects of loneliness where love is lost and wafts through a ghost town.
The mood quickly changes on the driving, rocker ‘Radical Road’, which became the first single from the album. Tia’s dog Jake even gets a name check in this fun up-tempo number. Ace guitarists Pat Buchanan and Dan Walsh cut lose whilst Spady Brannon provides the mean bass licks. McGraff who actually was born on Radical Road in the Port Dover district, tells of mischievous times as a 2 year old when she wasn’t ‘as good as gold’ leading to rebel days that would not fit a parents mould – but she can always blame her birthplace!
Lost Souls Left Luggage’ enters orchestral territory; this observational piece depicts the scene of a lonely, lost figure at a cold train station whose vacant sad look is in contrast to an excited couple who are seen to fall into each others arms. The mid-tempo ‘Vega Star’ speaks of someone in the entertainment world who was on the verge of superstar fame but falls short of achieving the dream, but despite this as far as the onlooker goes, will always remain brilliant.
Two Wolves’ is Native American fare. On this folk song Six Nations Indian Reserve musicians add tasteful touches on wood flute, rattle and offer chants. The Grandfather Chief tells the tale of two wolves living inside every man, one in harmony the other full of anger – but which one will win on life’s path.
Fallen Down’ transcends into an edgy modern day contemporary country track. It’s a frustrated look as a relationship veers from a strong standpoint that could have blossomed if only the help offered was gratefully taken. The gritty Waggin’ The Dog’ is a hard hitting look on today’s media culture – Yes whatever happened to innocent childhood nursery rhyme days where now in a twisted and upside down world nothing is believable, where once back in Bob Dylan days it appeared they were.
Cold As Steel’ is a heart-wrenching affair which when performed at live gigs has reduced audience members to tears. It is one of the most personal tracks Tia has ever written and comes from a place of raw emotion. Its opening lines says it all – ‘Three hundred and ninety-nine days in the dark and I woke up without you in my heart’
The graceful ballad ‘How Pale The Rose’ sounds like a timeless classic. It is an adaption of a poem by Hendrick Hines, and here put to music, takes on an 1800’s Celtic vibe.
The light from bookend track ‘Lighthouse’ guides the listener to the safe haven of home on a foggy, stormy night where waves of brokenness diminish with the help of a loving companion.
The common weave throughout DIVERSITY is McGraffs voice and subject matter over the years on her travels drawn straight from the heart. With such smart and meticulous song writing skills why not take a test drive with this Canadian artist and take a journey down radical road.

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