Ali McManus - Unbreakable
OK, let's get the obvious out of the way. Ali McManus is a 20 year old singer-songwriter that has experienced a pile of health problems in her short life. The Detroit native was a preemie that weighed just 2 lbs and 7 oz at birth and given a 50/50 chance at life. She survived but fate stacked the cards against her when she developed a rare bone disorder which confined her to a wheelchair at the age of 7. Surgeries followed (11 of them) along with body casts, as well as steel rods to straighten her spine and other corrective measures. All of this has left her with a 30% lung capacity.
I mention those challenges to help frame this review because her health is understandably front and center in the content of her song. It's hard to escape a physical condition that encapsulates your entire life. That kind of adversity would be enough to break the will of many of us. Not so with Ali McManus. Yes, health is an important part of her story but not the prevailing one. This girl would be making music despite what her body is informing her.
Her first record, Unbreakable, is a six-song EP that shows a songwriter with potential. The songs are all of a pop-rock variety but contain a flavor that should be embraced by country audiences. Perhaps it's because her voice recalls a young Dolly Parton, but beyond that, the sentimentality that emanates from the material fits in perfectly with that sort of aesthetic. Country music people relate more to real life than a lot of effervescent pop disciples.
The title track kicks things off and sums up the project with a declaration of her steely determination. The song takes twenty years of her story and like a kind of bio, explains who she is and where she is going. "Rhythm That Rhymes" has an easy-going gait that is easy on the ears. My favorite track is "Breaking Free" which has a strong chorus possibly because the record has an all-star presence with legendary producer Jack Douglas at the helm and his influence is greatly felt here.
Equally good is the next track, "Wings" which again has a real strong melody line for the chorus. "Heart Shattered" pulls at the heart strings and "Home" finishes off the record in fine style with another satisfying chorus.
Unbreakable is a great achievement for someone that has faced the adversity Ali has. The young lady has a flair for melody and this record serves as a great introduction to what hopefully will be a long career.
Preview and purchase this record here
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Ali McManus - Unbreakable
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