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Tia McGraff and Tommy Parham

Venue: Grateful Fred's Café Session
Town: Formby
Date: 16/5/16

Tonight's guests at Grateful Fred's Cafe Session were Canadian singer-songwriter Tia McGraff and her husband/musical partner Tommy Parham. This was Tia and Tommy's eleventh tour of the UK and this one is in support of Tia's recent album "Crazy Beautiful", which received excellent reviews, including one by FATEA's Helen Mitchell who described it as "a simply stunning collection of songs", an opinion that I fully endorse.

Tia's appearance tonight arose out of a recommendation to Grateful Fred by Liverpool musical hero Henry Priestman [of The Yachts, It's Immaterial and, most notably, The Christians], with whom Tia occasionally writes songs with, in true Nashville style.

Tia is clearly an outstanding songwriter who writes about a wide range of subjects . From her latest album "Crazy Beautiful" we heard the inspirational title track ; the beautiful "The One I've Waited For", a classic Country song which clearly comes straight from the heart and "Movin' The Smoke Away" a song about self-belief in the face of adversity, which, to my ears, has a touch of Dolly Parton about it. In "The Fire" Tia considers how we make choices whether to help others who are in difficulty or danger, how some of us are heroes and some are not.

One of Tia's finest songs is "Tumbleweed", a lovely ballad about loneliness which David Starr has recorded.

Many of Tia's songs are based on true events. For example, "It Can't Rain Every Day" tells the extraordinary story of Abigail Becker who saved shipwrecked sailors in a storm on Lake Erie in 1854, even though she could not swim! Continuing the nautical theme, "Whisky Ship" is a jolly song about the sinking of a "Rum Runner" ship called The City of Dresden and what happened to her illicit cargo [ think "Whisky Galore"].

Tia wrote "Conductor For A Day" as a Father's Day present, to remind her father of the time that he rode on the footplate of a locomotive sixty years ago. No doubt her father was delighted with this beautifully evocative song, we certainly were.

Tommy, Tia's husband, has Native American ancestry and Tia based her song "Tale of Two Wolves" on a Cherokee legend which tells how people have two wolves inside them, one good and one bad and how they battle to dominate the spirit.

As well as being an exemplary songwriter, Tia is a superb singer as demonstrated in her mini-tribute to Linda Ronstadt in which she sang Warren Zevon's "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" [dedicated to "Robot" George Hollingworth] and a simply stunning version of Gary White's "Long, Long Time", from Linda's "Silk Purse" album.

Early in her career, when Tia appeared on a CBC television show, Johnny Cash was so impressed that he introduced Tia to June Carter. To celebrate that memorable moment, Tia performed June's "Ring of Fire", which prompted much audience participation, especially those from the blue part of Liverpool.

Grateful Fred's Cafe Sessions have seen [and heard] many great evenings but the general consensus was that this was one of the very best. Tia and Tommy really engaged with the audience and their obvious joy in performing was evident for all to see.

Peter Cowley

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