Though the body has ventured across the land, the soul has never strayed far from her childhood homestead. Ali McCormick offers up her most personal offering to date with That Place You Know, her third album.
A true wilderness wordsmith, Ali populates her music with colourful characters you enjoy spending time with. Though you’ll find struggle and bittersweet kisses, McCormick usually gives you a clearing at the end of the path where you can dip your line into the local fishing hole and dream away the afternoon. Rooted in folk, songs like “Tackle Box, Saw, Chain and a Knife” and “The Woodstove” show the road at the end of a long tour now leads to her own cozy clearing on an island sheep farm. A need to be inside nature’s envelope is part of her DNA.
“If I learned anything during my years working in bakeries and restaurants it is that some recipes call for familiarity.” she says. “Nature has the perfect ingredients for an environmentally-inspired songwriter to cook up some good, wholesome poetry.”
Cook she does! That Place You Know, like 2014’s self-titled recording and 2016’s Clean Water, is full of tasty, road-tested songs. Brimming with youthful hijinks and wild days at the midway, there are also cherished moments spent at home in the warm caress of love. One would expect no less from The Lioness of Lanark County.
Once, long before they called her The Lioness, Ali McCormick was growing up off-the-grid. Her family grew vegetables and tended livestock on a subsistence farm high on a Watson’s Corners hill. It was a rugged life and there was hardship but there were also spring melts, maple syrup runs and sunlit days spent chasing deer out of the garden with an old hound dog. For Ali, there was the guitar too.
“Our family was big on frequent, long, drawn out visits,” recalls Ali. “Amidst heated family discussions fueled by boisterous tea and coffee drinking, the guitars would inevitably come out.” It was a golden day when she was given one of her very own, a cherry-topped parlour model.
Music as her career was fueled by another dream, the dream of exploring whatever was beyond the horizon. In her late teens, guitar in hand, she headed towards the city lights, tucking snippets of songs into suitcases and dusting off melodies at way station stops.
On snowy night highways, in lonesome hotel rooms, on smoky bar room stages, here she found the words and the words found themselves on scraps of paper, words that made their way into her songs. Her style would be very much like McCormick herself, a stitched-together patchwork quilt of personality, one that has her warmth, her sense of worldly wanderlust as well as her fiery, backwoods independence. “I’ve been known to park the car half-way up a driveway and stop everything to hammer out a song,” she’ll tell you.
“I love bringing a song, be it a story or a feeling, to people,” Ali says. “If a song has made someone think of something they want to change about themselves, or helped them remember someone they love then I’m in my happy place.”