The title track “Crooked Feelings” from Ali Sperry’s 2017 release is about “stepping into your own power; deciding not to put up with people and ideas that are not supportive to you”. This sentiment is carried on a wide arc in this largely collaborative album, artfully weaving through a number of themes and unique voices.
Recorded at home in her rented pink villa in East Nashville, Ali is “taking a step away from the singer/songwriter direction” of her two previous releases “Storybook” and “Comes and Goes”. The arrangements are fuller (Produced by Jon Estes and Jamie Dick), the songs are more assured, and as an album comprised largely of co-writes (Robby Hecht, Mary Bragg, Carey Ott to name a few), there is a something indelible about Ali’s voice that runs throughout.
Raised by musician parents in Fairfield Iowa, her childhood was tie-dyed in the music of the 60’s and 70’s: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor. After attending Syracuse University to study musical theatre, followed by brief stints in NYC and Chicago, Ali moved to Nashville in 2009 to join “Sweetwater Rose” – an all-girl country harmony group. In 2012, immersed in the growing alternative music scene in Nashville, she released her first solo record, “Storybook”, backed by a rotating tribe of musicians – friends, lovers, and roommates – who became known as “The Family Vacation”. October 2014 saw the release of “Comes and Goes”, an EP utilising many of the same players and embodying the same open door ethos that is patent in all of Ali’s music, and her character.
While love and personal growth feature throughout “Crooked Feelings”, this isn’t merely an album of doe eyed pop songs. On “Recover”, the haunting unison vocal tells a poignant tale of futility and frustration at recurrent events and lack of social progression: “Scattered on the pavement, innocence again / Promise of a future, coming to an end / Did it mean anything, anything at all?”. The arrangement is a rumination; the melody at times urgent, baiting the lyric forward against the clockwork pizzicato strings and marching band snare drum.
A yoga teacher and practitioner of Transcendental Mediation by day, Ali draws a parallel between the two and songwriting, saying “they are both about getting to the real truth – reaching to the heart of something and staying centered”. The final track, Highest Hill, “feels like a mission statement: it represents me and the journey I’ve been on”. Above a textural bed of percussion and guitars, Ali sings “I’m leaving on a journey today / Taking all of these memories and years / There are things I’ve been meaning to say / In a voice unshackled by fears”.