Tia McGraff’s Releases New EP 

The seven songs included in Tia McGraff’s new EP With Love will enjoy broad appeal with listeners. Fans of several different musical styles will relish how McGraff confidently strikes out in sometimes unexpected directions during the EP without ever running the release into a ditch. It’s part of the overall diversity that’s guided her creative journey for almost two decades now as the Ontario-born and based singer, author, and songwriter has experienced success after success without ever losing sight of her central aims.

She wants to celebrate the life of her late beloved dog Jake with the EP’s release date. This may sound like a corny gesture to some. Not I. I think it reveals McGraff as a thoughtful and deep-feeling individual who values life and makes little, if any distinction, between species. There’s an overall sacredness superseding everything else. The predominant folk/pop template of the album announces itself with the EP opener.

The title song opens with a simple yet hypnotic melody. McGraff favors acoustic guitar above all else and beginning the EP in such a stark but elegant way makes a definite impression on listeners. Her voice sounds much younger than her years, not coy and/or shallow, but vibrant with life instead and full of playfulness. Her songwriting, as well, never lacks a message, but yet never loses sight of the fact that it is, first and foremost, a song rather than a screed.

She dispenses with any pop trappings, however, during the EP’s second song “Clockwork”. This is singer/songwriter material in full with scant aspirations toward commerciality. It doesn’t forego added flashes of color, tasteful keyboard textures emphasize that during the song’s second half in particular, but melody is the musical order of the day.

The single “Go Your Own Way”, however, wholeheartedly throws its lot in with a folk-rock sound. It certainly announces that with an authoritative snap of snare drum at the song’s start before launching into a briskly paced number that, once again, never abandons its melodic center. It isn’t difficult to hear why she chose this for a single. “Organic” is cut from a similar cloth. The sharper upbeat slant of the lyrics will make it welcome fare for many, but it’s the arrangement that ultimately wins you over. It’s buoyant without ever coming across as over the top.

“Change A Comin’” concludes the EP with an acoustic-fueled optimistic shuffle with the sort of homemade quality sustaining With Love’s most intimate moments. The banjo contributions are especially effective and pair up well with McGraff’s voice, but it’s the rousing handclap peppered finale for the song that puts an exclamation point on the collection. It’s a great way to end the EP, nothing groundbreaking, but so thoroughly in keeping with who Tia McGraff is as a person, songwriter, and performer that listeners will still be smiling long after With Love has ended. It is a great title. The seven-song EP is an album in an earlier era and it’s ok to regard it as such, but no matter either way – it’s a superlative effort you won’t soon forget. 

Michael Rand

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