Jump to content

Lori McKenna - The Tree (2018)


Recommended Posts

  • SuperModerator

Lori McKenna - The Tree (2018)


There's no way Lori McKenna could write the kinds of songs she does and be cool. It would be that way even if she weren't the middle-aged mom of five kids, living with her plumber husband of nearly 30 years, in the small town of Stoughton, 17 miles outside Boston. Cool requires a haze of mystique, a staunch aversion to cliché, an aura of originality. But there's nothing truly original about the human condition. Every variety of joy and suffering a person can experience has been undergone by innumerable others. That common stock of pleasure and pain is McKenna's box of paints, the stuff of near cliché that she renders into vivid three-minute portraits and landscapes. At the intimate scale where she does her best work, any whiff of posturing would be fatal to the impression she's so deft at creating, that she's telling the listener's own story-singing your life, your loved ones' lives, and maybe even your worst enemy's life, back to you.

And yet there's a side of McKenna's life that's undeniably glamorous. Between school functions and softball practices, she jets to Nashville, Tennessee—or other Music Row professionals jet to her—to collaborate on songs for other performers, sometimes ones that sell millions. In the couple of decades she's been at it seriously, McKenna has written (by her estimate) nearly 100 songs a year, often with her team partners, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose (the latter of whom is best known for her earlier work with then-teenage Taylor Swift), collectively known as the Love Junkies. They wrote the 2015 hit “Girl Crush” for Little Big Town, making headlines for the song's risqué-for-country Sapphic overtones and winning both the Grammy for Country Song of the Year and Country Music Association award for Song of the Year. This month, they've got a Top 10 Country track with Carrie Underwood, the affecting belter “Cry Pretty.” On her own, McKenna created what was pretty much the dominant country song of both 2016 and 2017, “Humble and Kind,” a gently subversive plea for human decency in an indecent age, recorded by Tim McGraw. That one brought a second consecutive year of Grammy and CMA wins, and in 2017, McKenna became the first woman ever to be named the Academy of Country Music Songwriter of the Year—the more remarkable for an artist not from the South, who began on the northeastern folk circuit.

Lest you think McKenna takes that success as a license to cruise, she ends her new solo album, The Tree, with a tribute to songwriting as a craft, penned with her Love Junkie comrades, called, "Like Patsy Would": When she’s making a song, she sings, she wants to "write it down like Hemingway/ Like it's the last damn thing I'll ever say/ And try to sing it like Patsy would." (That would be Patsy Cline, of course.) And yet she says try to, well aware the goal is unrealizable. McKenna's own voice is an effective but modest instrument, part of the reason her hits have come from other performers, despite this being her 11th studio album. Yet the degree of her ambition is also indispensable because every time she confronts the blank page again, “it's just me and the truth.”

Not every songwriter could get away with singing about truth as if it were a solid object she's held and turned in her hands. McKenna earns it. Yes, she has a job to do, but her business is pretty much to wreck you, as stealthily and exactingly as she can. (In fact, “Wreck You” was the title of the first cut on her previous album, 2016's The Bird & the Rifle.) She's out to amuse, encourage, and comfort too, but lots of songwriters do that. McKenna's specialty is to call upon all the techniques and arcana of her craft in order to slip her fingers into your chest and lovingly but pitilessly squeeze. That may not be cool, but it's steely.

She does this early on The Tree with a pair of songs about intergenerational care and frailty. First there is "The Fixer," about a husband who can repair anything except his wife's terminal illness. Then comes "People Get Old," which is partly a portrait of McKenna's father (who raised her and five other siblings on his own after McKenna's mother died when she was 7) as he grows weaker in his 80s but still clings to his autonomy. But on another level, it's about the whole cycle of life in families and struggling to appreciate each moment in the face of inevitable change and loss and decline. By the time the two tracks were over, I was basically listening to the rest of the album flattened out on the floor.


01. A Mother Never Rests 2:45
02. The Fixer 3:28
03. People Get Old 3:42
04. Young and Angry Again 3:38
05. The Tree 3:23
06. You Won't Even Know I'm Gone 2:17
07. Happy People 3:27
08. You Can't Break a Woman 3:14
09. The Lot Behind St. Mary's 3:31
10. The Way Back Home 3:02
11. Like Patsy Would 2:58

Hurry if you want to download the album: this is a [Dead Links? Topic Removed!] thread. No mirrors will be added ... get it while it's hot!

Hidden Content

    Give reaction to this post to see the hidden content.

NO Password.

Cheers, :hi:

  • Like 2
Link to comment

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...