Endearing debut album from classical violist turned multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Ali Comerford.
Release Date: 29th July 2021
Label: Self Release
Formats: Digital / Limited Edition Vinyl
Now here’s a new name for you. Ali Comerford is a master musician – quite literally! Born and raised in County Kilkenny, Ireland, she started to learn the intricacies of classical music at the age of four and went to gain a Masters degree in Violin Performance from London’s Royal College of Music and later a Masters of Music in Viola Performance from the Manhattan School of Music. For 14 years, she toured the world as a member of various string ensembles and chamber orchestras until, in January 2020, she returned home to Jenkinstown, Co. Kilkenny, to explore the full scope of her musicality. The result is Knots, an endearing album of intimate songs that showcase Ali’s lyricism, beautiful voice and sympathetic accompaniment on piano, guitar and every member of the violin family.
Recorded at Crossroads Studio, Kilkenny, with the support of Recording Engineer Shane Tobler, Knots is a genuinely home-made affair. Ali has written all the songs and sings and plays every single note on the album. The songs are fantastically intimate – there are times when Ali seems to be whispering the lyrics right into the ear of the listener with the effect that they seem to be being performed for you alone. The instrumentation is adept yet sparse, an arrangement that gives focus to the lyrics and to that beautiful voice and, whilst there are echoes in some songs of the likes of Nick Drake and Laura Nyro – and even Kate Nash in some of the lighter, more upbeat numbers – the sound, really, is Ali’s own.
Dedicated web watchers may have already detected some preliminary movements in Camp Comerford, as the album’s release has been prefaced by three singles, He Knows, Knots and Come Home, all highlights of this fascinating album, and each one a song that gives a reliable indication of the fare on offer.
My ear, and interest, were captured right at the outset by opening track Don’t Wait, a delightful, intimate piano ballad with some tasteful viola embellishments. Second track, Gently is, as its title suggests, soft and gentle, with a finger-picked acoustic guitar accompaniment. He Knows, the album’s first single, features an effective combination of acoustic guitar-backed verses and a lush strings accompaniment in the chorus sections, before things are pared right back for the short, sweet, Understand, in which the only backing is provided by a plucked double bass.
The ghost of Nick Drake is particularly evident on the haunting Come Home, the album’s current single. This time, the sparse backing comprises acoustic guitar and some wonderful, quivering strings. The song deals with a theme that will be familiar to anyone who has moved on from their roots – as Ali describes: “I wrote this song with someone in mind, but really it’s for anyone who wants to return home but feels that they can’t because too much has happened or too much time has passed. It’s a reminder that home will always be there for them. The lyrics are filled with a hopeful longing – ‘Your bed’s still made, Your place is all set’ “
Bird’s Eye View is divine and another high point. Ali provides her own vocal harmonies in a contemplative song with heartfelt lyrics like “You make me rise above my station, You make me play the doctor, not the patient” and a stunningly beautiful tune. In stark contrast, Ali shows her cynical streak in the triumvirate of songs, America #s 1,2, and 3, a trio of short guitar rags that take a (gentle yet determined) swipe at US immigration bureaucracy and the way that it thwarted her own ambitions
The lyric to the album’s title track came to Ali during a period of intense anxiety. In her case the anxiety was triggered by a fear that this debut album wouldn’t be well received, but the experiences she describes and the emotions that are expressed will be familiar to everyone, and the answer to the question that she repeatedly asks as the song draws to its close: “Am I alone?” is, emphatically, no, you’re not. Elsewhere, Lily’s Song is a reassuring folk song, Warned is an intriguing one-person string quartet and album closer, Mess, is a sophisticated, intimate piano ballad – the track that most closely recalls Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry period. Ali Comerford is a name to look out for, and Knots is an album that will be enjoyed by anyone looking for a spot of introspective refuge.
Ali will be launching Knots, her new album, with a performance at the Ballykeefe Amphitheatre, Kilmanagh, Co. Kilkenny, on Friday 30 July 2021. Tickets can be purchased here.
Listen to Come Home, the album’s current single, below.