Ali McGuirk was open to falling in love.
“I had been in the market for a while,” McGuirk told the Herald. “So I got an ’86 Fender Strat.”
The Burlington, Vt.-based, Boston-born singer and songwriter was in Nashville on Sept. 16. It was the day her new album, “Til It’s Gone,” came out. So she stepped into Carter Vintage Guitars with some friends and settled on the classic Stratocaster.
“It was an album release gift to myself to mark this chapter and it was my birthday week so I just went for it,” McGuirk said ahead of her Oct. 7 album release celebration at the Crystal Ballroom in Somerville.
McGuirk deserves a reward for “Til It’s Gone.”
The Boston scene is full of talents who should have gone national years ago. With her new LP, McGuirk joins the ranks of the few who have jumped from local hero to national act. A big part of the recent push into fresh markets has come from the support of Northampton record label Signature Sounds (full disclosure, I helped write McGuirk’s bio for the label).
But McGuirk deserves most of the credit. She spent nearly a decade singing her hypnotic hybrid of soul and jazz around the city (see 2017 album “Slow Burn”). “Til It’s Gone” radically expands her reach. To categorize the record into a single genre is plain dumb as it’s equal parts pop, rock, folk, Americana, retro r&b, neo soul and quiet storm.
“My goal (for this album) was to let the songs lead the charge,” McGuirk said. “It was important for me to express these other parts of me that come out when writing, the sitting-at-home-with-an-acoustic-guitar parts of me. It’s disingenuous for me to say I’m just a soul singer or all jazz.”
The lyrical themes are as wide, complex and nuanced as the music. “Evelyn” digs into a couple hundred years of generational trauma the women in her family have survived. “The Work” takes on some people’s refusal to explore and confront their biases. Around these tunes are songs of heartbreak and triumph, tenderness and fury.
As McGuirk’s fall calendar fills with shows from Portland, Maine, to Taos, N.M., she thinks about playing these heavy tunes night after night.
“Every musician’s job is practiced vulnerability, letting people into your world,” she said. “That’s part of what makes (performing original songs) therapeutic and part of what makes it difficult sometimes.”
McGuirk says that her songwriting process is like journaling so she’s used to revealing her emotions to an audience. But on “Til It’s Gone” she elevated some of her songs, making them bigger than herself.
“Songs like ‘The Work’ or even ‘Evelyn’ are abstract stories and not about me,” she said. “It can feel better to tell these kinds of stories than having ‘you’ and ‘me’ pronouns in every song.”
Whatever the subject matter, whatever the sound, McGuirk has a new guitar to play her songs on tour this fall. A guitar she more than deserves considering the achievement of “Til It’s Gone.”
For tour dates, tickets and more, go to alimcguirk.com.