“Mary McGuinness “Prodigal” Is Sprung From An Old-World Seed” – Americana Highways
Some artists are talented, sound good & are entertaining. Yet, what they lack is creativity, originality & a certain amount of magic that makes them at the least — interesting. I received this latest vinyl LP & when I placed the phono cartridge (needle) down on the groove I was pleasantly surprised to discover an exhilarating vocal — sprung from an old-world seed… READ MORE
Rooted in country music Mary McGuinness’ “Prodigal” is a magical and enticing experience. With her smoky vocals and thoughtful lyrics as beautifully showcased in “Butterfly,” and title track, “Prodigal” the album is charming and one that will make you hit replay over and over again.
What makes Prodigal a stellar album is the combination of McGuinness’ smooth vocals and enticing instrumentation. In titled track, “Prodigal” the songstress sings, “…I’ve been so low, shine a light on me…been a stranger living in this world. Nothing left to lose nothing left to say, dream of acceptance and your warm embrace.” Her voice is silky smooth, and the writing is reflective and full of perception. Her songwriting shines in the seven-track album. It’s hard to believe that this record was recorded in just five days. For these reasons and among others Mary McGuinness’ “Prodigal” is our selection for Best album of 2020.
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A Journey of Music, Resilience, and Heritage
Mary McGuinness, an accomplished singer-songwriter, has embarked on a remarkable musical journey that beautifully reflects her multicultural heritage, unyielding passion for music, and the strength she gained from a challenging background. Born in Fort Hood, Texas, to a Korean mother and an Irish-Scottish Green Beret father, Mary’s early life was a vibrant tapestry of diverse cultures and experiences.
At the tender age of two, Mary’s path took an international turn as she moved to Seoul, South Korea, to live with relatives. This early connection to her Korean roots would later play a significant role in shaping her identity. However, her time in Korea was fleeting as she returned to her mother’s care at the age of three. Tragically, Mary’s childhood was marred by adversity when she was removed from her home by Child Protective Services at the age of five due to child abuse.
In a twist of fate, Mary found solace with her Irish/Scottish grandfather and his wife, who stepped in just in time to provide her with a stable home. Despite this newfound stability, Mary faced challenges within her new home environment. Yet, her indomitable spirit began to shine through. Following her high school graduation, she seized a transformative opportunity – a music scholarship to Tanglewood Institute’s summer program for opera.
From that pivotal moment, Mary’s life was set on a course of musical discovery and personal empowerment. She discovered her love for singing within the church choir during her time at a Catholic school, where she also nurtured her appreciation for art, beauty, and nature. Despite enduring bullying due to her Asian heritage during her Catholic school years, Mary’s determination to embrace her individuality became a cornerstone of her identity.
Embarking on a new path beyond her hometown, Mary chased her aspirations. Her artistic voyage spanned operatic performances, tracing back to her triumph in a renowned competition in Spain. She also adorned the Neil Simon Theater’s Broadway stage for an impressive year and a half, showcasing her versatile talents as a performer.
She chose to major in classical voice at the Manhattan School of Music, a choice that underscored her passion for music and her resolute spirit. To support her studies, she embraced a multitude of jobs, including roles as a waitress, bartender, hostess, and more. These varied experiences not only provided financial support but also enriched her creative outlook.
Enduring hardships was a recurring theme in Mary’s journey, particularly during her years living and studying in New York City. She navigated the challenges of her circumstances by seeking sustenance from leftovers and discarded cafeteria items, while embarking on a daily 60-block walk to and from school due to the unaffordability of the subway. Balancing over 50 hours of weekly work alongside full-time studies, Mary still found it challenging to generate income to meet her basic needs. In those moments, she lacked a safety net and was without a reliable support system to turn to if circumstances took a turn for the worse. This cycle of struggle repeated in various phases of her life.
Mary’s musical journey eventually led her to Nashville, where she now resides and flourishes. Collaborating closely with her producer Joe Pisapia, Mary has discovered an authentic sense of belonging, channeling her music’s creation directly from her heart and soul. Having toured with Kenny Loggins twice across the country, and opened for artists like Train, Counting Crows, Gavin DeGraw, Donovan, Todd Rundgren, and more, Mary discovered her musical niche in the country and folk genres, deeply resonating with her roots and life experiences.
In 2020, Mary made her debut with Prodigal, an album that illuminated her influences and experiences. Through this album, she skillfully showcased her unique blend of lucid folk, rustic country, and Americana styles, establishing a musical identity that resonates deeply.
That same year, her creative spirit soared to new heights. She paid tribute to iconic artists such as Kenny Rogers and the rock band Bread through heartfelt covers. Unforeseeably, her rendition of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” coincidentally released on the very day Kenny Rogers passed away, added an extra layer of sentiment, intricately linking her Texan heritage to the legacy of the legendary musician.
Mary’s music pays homage to her influences, drawing inspiration from legendary acts such as The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, and The Beatles. Through her melodies, she weaves a captivating tapestry that chronicles her diverse life experiences, reflecting her multicultural heritage, her journey through adversity and healing, with her unbreakable spirit.
Beyond her musical achievements, Mary’s narrative is one of triumph over hardship and a celebration of the strength that blossoms from embracing one’s uniqueness. Her quest to reconnect with her Korean family, who turned out to be a lineage of musicians and descendants of the renowned poet Hwang Jin-i, stands as a testament to her determination to reclaim her heritage and honoring her ancestry.
Mary’s accomplishments extend beyond her solo endeavors. While living in Los Angeles, she recorded four albums under a pseudonym, a creative decision that added a layer of mystique to her musical journey. It was only in 2020 that she decided to reclaim her true identity, returning to her real name for all future releases. Notably, her third album was produced by Jim Scott (known for his work with Wilco), while her fourth was under the guidance of Mark Needham (renowned for his collaborations with The Killers and Imagine Dragons). Her earlier releases showcased an array of chart-topping tracks, including a self-penned and performed song that soared to #1 on the Billboard Electronic Dance Chart and another track that secured the 14th position.
Captured in her mantra, “Miracles are everywhere,” Mary McGuinness’s life mission reflects her unwavering faith in life’s magic and the transformative power of music. Her journey encapsulates the essence of her beliefs, from her earliest aspirations of becoming an opera singer to her success across a diverse spectrum of musical ventures. Her artistic legacy continues to inspire and uplift those around her.
Mary’s narrative is one of transformation and empowerment. From battling low self-esteem and sorrow in her youth, she emerged as a survivor, stronger and more resolute than ever. Throughout cycles of adversity, her inherent resilience propelled her forward, guiding her to a place of happiness and contentment. Today, she stands as a living testament to the notion that challenges can serve as stepping stones toward a brighter future.
She is poised to captivate music enthusiasts once more with her forthcoming release. Nestled in the heart of Nashville, the city of songwriting, Mary meticulously crafted her upcoming record, pouring her heart and soul into each lyric and note. Collaborating with a diverse array of co-writers, her creative expedition became an exploration of musical horizons. The compulsion that ignited her to create this album resonates in every melody, underscoring the depth of her artistic ardor.
In a pioneering experience, esteemed producer, Joe Pisapia not only interpreted Mary’s music but also understood her essence, resulting in a seamless fusion of sound and identity. The album boasts gems like “Dreamy Feeling,” “Once in a Blue Moon,” “Shadowcatcher,” “Double Vision,” “Keep Dreaming,” and “Spellbreaker” – each a showcase of her versatile talent.
Mary McGuinness’s music transcends genre boundaries. Rooted in the singer-songwriter tradition of the 1970s, her style incorporates elements of Americana, folk, Celtic, alt-country, and even spiritual and cosmic influences. What sets her apart is the intricate weaving of her background and heritage into her compositions. Her voice becomes a conduit for emotions, her unique sound a rich tapestry of influences, and her visual presence a vivid portrayal of her musical narrative.
From her humble beginnings to this pivotal juncture, Mary’s musical evolution is a testament to her unwavering commitment and faith. Her upcoming album not only promises a collection of songs but also offers a window into her life’s journey. As the release date approaches, anticipation heightens for a musical experience that is as genuine as it is unforgettable.