Monday, October 15, 2012

Kara McGraw Makes A Good Will Pick

Kara McGraw music
Thirteen songs benefiting 13 causes over 13 weeks. This is the vision of a singer-songwriter Kara McGraw who recently composed and produced her first album in more than a decade. She wants to raise awareness and funds for a variety of nonprofit organizations, all of them close to her soul.

"Music heals hearts, and it only makes sense to me that it also extends to healing the world," she says. "Each song on the album is designated to raise funds for a specific charity. Some of them are very personal choices."

Among the most personal are the Alzheimer's Association and National Multiple Sclerosis Society, as her grandmother is afflicted with Alzheimer's and a close friend from college is diagnosed with MS. The Yonso Project also has a personal connection. Her cousin and cousin's fiancé founded the program in the Ghana, which sponsors education, micro-loans, and other innovative programs to lift up people in isolated rural areas within this West African country.

As for the rest? She's connected to all of them, with some suggested by her friends and family. It's her hope to help as many people possible, while giving each organization the equal attention it deserves.

The Hound And The Hare as an uplifting good will pick. 

The compositions that make up the album are uplifting, haunting and reflective songs with theatrical leanings. All of them are vivid enough to conjure images of costumes and spotlights, musical arrangements that have an apparent affinity to be choreographed and then played out on stage.

"The album is two-sided to reflect two frames of mind: One is personal, inward focused, and vulnerable; the other is playful and outgoing," she says. "I am constantly bouncing between these two sides of myself."

Side A, The Hound, is the extroverted side, with many of the songs of exhibiting an excitement and bounce. A few are reminiscent of the musical Chess by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, not in content but in influences felt in the arrangements. Listen to Tough Cookies first.

Side B, The Hare, carries more quiet self-reflection as opposed to the robust self-discovery on The Hound. While these too could be set to the stage, some of the confessional, contemplative and dramatic upticks could stand alone as pop songs. Start with the first track, Icebreakers.

McGraw, a self-described closet introvert who often comes across as an extrovert, says she wrote most of the songs over the last ten years while working on unrelated musical and joining several writer groups. Last year, she also released a single to benefit farmers recovering from Hurricane Irene.

"Making my own music is nothing new," says McGraw, who won the Vermont Young Composers scholarship award for her ballad “Comic Books and Flashlights” in 2001. "What is new is that this is the first time I have the opportunity to promote my own music using some of the knowledge I've gained  [over the years] and I'm honestly not sure how it will be received. My songs are personal; they feel like part of me."

While McGraw sometimes struggles with the range her compositions call for, it's always clear where she is going as a singer-songwriter and composer. She has a beautiful voice, but also leaves one imagining what Broadway performers could bring to her work.

The organizations that benefit from The Hare And The Hound. 

McGraw's fundraising efforts began with Free Arts NYC during the first week of the release. Other organizations include: Heifer International (Oct. 2), Rainforest Action Network (Oct. 9), Kiva (Oct. 16), Creative Visions (Oct. 23), American Diabetes Association (Oct. 30), A Child's Right (Nov. 6), Alzheimer's Association (Nov. 13), The Bully Project (Nov. 20), The Nature Conservancy (Nov. 27), Yonso Project (Dec. 4), National Multiple Sclerosis Society (Dec. 11), and Wild & Scenic Institute (Dec. 18). You can find a listing of the songs as she matched them to organizations on her site.

If there is a common thread in her picks, it's two-fold like her album. McGraw seems to gravitate to giving people a hand up or those people who can't sadly accept one. It's also worthwhile to note that the project could give her a hand up too by helping her refocus on the major musical she has composed.

The upcoming musical (unrelated to the release) is about a young college student who falls for a coal miner's son and is then tempted by the divine trappings of choice. The girl can be selfish with the man she loves and find her way into heaven or selfless in her action and face damnation. Much like the emotion love, which it explores for all its fury and comfort, there might not be a 'right' choice.

The Hound And The Hare By Kara McGraw Is A Good Will Pick.

At least once a month, Liquid Hip highlights good will efforts undertaken by people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

McGraw clearly has a passion for the arts as well as the world around her. We think it's great that she found a way to bring the two together, much like she did last year with The Chandelier. This time, she takes a decade of work and gives it freely to several worthwhile organizations.

By purchasing the album during specified weeks, select organizations benefit. You can find The Hound & The Hare on iTunes or download it from Amazon, but McGraw notes that Aurovine and Nimbit afford more proceeds to the artist (and thus more proceeds to the benefactors). Currently, McGraw is planning a CD release party in the Bay area. You can keep up on her appearances on Facebook.
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