Tia McGraff is an internationally-renowned, award-winning singer-songwriter and author from Toronto, Ontario Canada. Tia is accompanied by Tommy Parham, her musical and life-time partner. The two met and married while living in Nashville, TN and have enjoyed an extensive career performing, songwriting and recording together for more than 12 years. They have put together seven international CD releases, various film/TV placements, and numerous nominations and awards, including first round Grammy ballots in 2016 and 2019. Tia McGraff’s latest release is the album “Stubborn In My Blood”, which features great production, ‘loose’ yet amazingly ‘tight’ performances, a great set of songs in various moods, and of course Tia’s voice backed liberally with telepathic harmonies.
The lyrics from the dynamic singer-songwriter always reach deeper than they first appear, a portrait of the emotional reality of a life lived out through to all of the edges. And there’s always more to hear on the second listen through. The musicianship is excellent and Tia McGraff’s hauntingly powerful vocals, together with the tasteful and effective backup vocals, ties everything she does together.
This independently-produced effort is artfully done, yet stays within itself enough to highlight the poetry in the words. Tia McGraff is a songwriting powerhouse, and “Stubborn In My Blood” is an excellent showcase of her awesome talents at their cohesive best.
Unless it’s made of stone, your heart will swell along with the music right from the opening track, “Pilot of Change”, on this album. Tia’s emotional voice can break your heart even before you get the gist of what she’s singing about.
Which is exactly what she wants to save you from on “Hole in Your Heart”, as she sings: “And I’m here to hold you, however long it takes”. This is the kind of album where, for the first few tracks, at least, you might be thinking to yourself, “This is the best track she’s done.”
Track three, in this instantly gratifying playlist, “Travelin’ by Guitar” is an anecdotal tour de force that moves back and forth between wordy verses and a rocking chorus that present a climactic highlight. But that’s immediately succeeded, and superseded, by “Own Your Sunshine”, a more empowering than usual number, no doubt inspired by transformative experiences.
No matter the backdrop, Tia McGraff sounds completely in control. Her powers peak on a song called “Let ‘Em See Your Strong” a grandiose ballad for the spiritually marginalized set against delicate piano and a heart-swelling choral section. The chorus positively towers here.
Tia McGraff offers no formulaic evasions of life’s difficulties, instead she advises on how work through them with the help of unshakable faith, determination and self-empowerment. This comes through on the autobiographical title track, “Stubborn in My Blood” and “One Tin Soldier”.
The tenderest suggestion of life’s ultimate trustworthiness – love – comes in the form of the mid-tempo ballad, “Here with Me Tonight”. Without denying the limits inherent in any romantic relationship, “Far Away Man” insists that the gifts of love may be beyond measuring by those limits.
As masterful as the lyrics of the verses are, it’s the soaring chorus both vocally and instrumentally that seals the deal in all its glory, on “The Faithful Ones”. This is the perfect, throwback, folk-driven gem, as is the following song.
Tia McGraff approaches the album closer, “Forbidden” with an essential essence that makes the performance and overall record sound organic and authentic to the ninth degree. After listening to “Stubborn In My Blood”, there’s not a doubt in my mind why Tia McGraff has earned Grammy-ballot nominations. There’s not a bad song to be found here, and Tia sounds amazing from start to finish.