Nicole Maguire hails from Conna in Co. Cork and has come to prominence recently (and my awareness) as she is due to release her album in the next few weeks (March 28th).
Nicole started her musical quest at an early age, taking up the guitar at 12 after doing quite well for herself entering competitions at primary school. She seems to have had a singular vision of her career and of a life in music as she began writing songs at a young age and was even posting them to Paul Young for feedback. By age 15 she was already gigging. She slowly built up her experience and after approaching Damien Dempsey at one of his gigs ended up supporting him at his next gig at Vicar Street in Dublin. After this Nicole recorded and released an ep (of which I cannot find anything about). However the gigging and ep release paved the way for her to, by the recommendation of someone, end up supporting Nanci Griffith on her Irish tour. From Nanci and her band members, she was recommended to record in Nashville. After a spell there, she contacted the producer Mitchell Froom (Pearl Jam, Crowded House, Randy Newman,Ron Sexsmith). After hearing a demo, he agreed to produce her album and after working in two jobs to fund the recording, Nicole travelled to the US and the recordings began.
One of the things that strikes you when you listen to the music of Nicole Maguire is the style of her compositions. Clearly influenced by early americana of the Laural canyon, Nicole music attracts obvious comparisons to Nanci Griffith, Sheryl Crow and especially Lucinda Williams. Going by her biography, she seems to have picked up the style and melodies from her families record collection of those early 70’s California songwriters.
The lead single on the album is “Hard Love”. With lovely lead guitar licks and backing vocals by Vonda Shepard (Trivia fact: she who did the soundtrack for Ally McBeal ), it’s a gentle, arresting, melody.
The musicians that Froom gathered for the recording included Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ drummer, Pete Thomas; CSN bass player Bob Glaub and Val McCallum, guitarist for Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams. The album is superbly produced. The arrangements allow her words to shine through offering the perfect sublte accoimpment. Nicole’s voice is centre stage on the title track. A vocal style that is reminiscent of Alison Krauss, the melancholic paced song simply soars.
A lot of the album was recorded live and it feels that way. The album works as a collective rather than a bunch of songs thrown together. That’s hard to find these days. One of my favourites off the album which isn’t available to stream here but you can find here is “I don’t”. Again led by the strong vocals and a shimmering guitar licks, it compares very favourably with early Lucinda Williams for me.
Keep an eye on her website for the latest. Nicole plays a few gigs in preparation of the album launch in Cork. She plays upstairs Roisin dubh Galway (Fri 21st March), upstairs Whelans, Dublin (Sat 22nd), Cobblestone Joes Limerick (Sun 23rd) and Coughlans, Cork on March 28th with a full Irish tour to follow after the album release. You can find more information on her Facebook page.