CD Review: Malea McGuinness “Close As Air”

Armed with a voice that is as bold as it is graceful, Malea McGuinness has what it takes to be a pop diva. Her new album, “Close As Air”, will get right under you skin, enchanting you with memorable melodies and engaging harmonies. McGuinness is clearly an adult contemporary artist, but has a soft rock edge in some of her tunes that will attract a wider spectrum of music fans.

She recorded her debut album “True Believer” with producer Scott Hackwith (Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop, The Ramones), which she released independently in 2007. The first single, “Deeper,” hit 16 on influential radio tip sheet Friday Morning Quarterback’s AC40 chart, while the follow-up (and first video) “Sweet Light” was Most Added, climbing to 3, with both in rotation on Sirius XM Satellite and Triple A stations across the country. She performed before 7,000 fans at the Summerfest Music Festival in Milwaukee, sharing the bill with B.B. King, Bon Jovi and John Mayer, then opened for Todd Rundgren at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. She also just signed an endorsement deal for her own signature model acoustic and electric guitars with Korea-based Peerless Guitars.

McGuinness reveals that “Close As Air” is an album about “having faith in something you can’t necessarily see or touch”. Her emotive lyrics can get downright heart wrenching, especially when coupled to the vulnerability in her vocals – this is best exemplified on the track “Stars”. Her sophomore effort begins with a winning rocker called “Spinning”, which will make its mark on your memory by the end of the first chorus – it is a perfect pop rock treat. She follows this with a sweet mid-tempo rocker, “Time Will Show”, before slowing it down further with the elegant title track. “Moving On” is another highlight with a subtle Southern rock edge and sing along chorus. McGuinness sounds a bit like a female Elton John on the piano driven ballad, “Tonight”. The aforementioned “Stars” is one of my favorites off the CD, featuring a standout lyric and wonderful hook in the chorus. “Birthday Song” brings out more of her country influence and serves to showcase her versatility as a songwriter. She ends the CD on a high note with “Memories”, another mellow piano ballad with some dramatic strings and backing vocals to help raise the hair on your arms.

McGuinness has a charm and style that will appeal to a wide audience – from fans of classic pop artists such as Linda Ronstadt or Carly Simon to those of modern pop artists like Anna Nalick or Nina Gordon.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10

Malea McGuinness on MySpace. Official site.

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