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Unglamorous (Bonus Track Version)

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Editors’ Notes

Lori McKenna may call her 2007 album Unglamorous, but she’s not afraid to call upon genuine Nashville royalty (namely, her friends Faith Hill and Tim McGraw) for vocal support when needed. Apart from this star connection, Lori stands upon her own merits as a singer/songwriter of uncommon authenticity and skill. On her four previous albums, this Massachusetts mother of five excelled at detailing the epiphanies of ordinary life in plain sonic settings. This time, she shifts from folk towards mainstream country while raising the upbeat quotient of her music. Brian Gallimore’s production cranks up and smoothes out McKenna’s sound, making her come across like a more poetic Jo Dee Messina at times. What hasn’t changed is the humanity of McKenna’s writing — tracks like “Falter,” “Drinkin’ Problem” and “Leaving This Life” display an insight and compassion all too rare these days. She’s capable of capturing both unbridled happiness (“I’m Not Crazy”) and seething anger (“Your Next Lover”), and the title track is an especially touching portrait of working class family life. Those partial to McKenna’s more unvarnished recordings may find these sides a bit too slick. Beneath the sheen, though, is the hardscrabble wisdom Lori has always expressed so eloquently.

Customer Reviews

Talented McKenna overproduced for mainstream radio

Let me first say that Lori McKenna is a very talented songwriter and singer with honest soul pouring out of her as evidenced by her earlier recorded efforts. The financial rewards cannot be argued with when it comes to securing a "major label" deal, and perhaps a little more fame is attractive too. However, most of this record is so overproduced with that slick sheen of big studio mainstream country music that you lose the raw honesty and pure soul of McKenna. Her songwriting is solid here, but the production overshadows her charm and performance of most songs on Unglamorous. Mainstream country today is like glossy 80s rock with a twang. I hope that McKenna returns to her more organic roots in future efforts and sticks to the honest, real, non-corporatized (is that a word?) music in the vein of her earlier efforts or the likes of Kane/Welch, Buddy Miller, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, et al.

Beautifully Unglamorous

With four independently released albums to her name, Lori McKenna earned a reputation as a talented singer/songwriter whose songs have been covered by the likes of Faith Hill and Sara Evans. Now, on her Warner Brothers debut, Unglamorous, McKenna employs her songwriting skills, capable of creating songs with potency and substance, into an album of direct and immensely affecting music. McKenna’s narrative approach to songwriting, along with her forthright way of singing, makes for a familiar, unembellished sounding album. Yet, lest one deem such a style simple or effortless, crafting such an informal feel — to where it’s believable — requires notable skill. For instance, on one of the album’s finest songs, “Drinkin’ Problem,” McKenna sings, “No, I never touch the stuff/But honey I’ll tell you what/You can’t count all the ways it touches me”. Once she hits those lines, the listener recognizes the adroit and poignant paradox of the lyrics in relation to the context of the song. McKenna’s plaintive vocal only makes it all the more heartbreaking. By its nature, the narrative lyric structure allows McKenna to assume various first-person roles and viewpoints, much like a prose writer would do in a short story or novel. On “Written Permission,” she becomes a disgruntled wife, unleashing a sonic pink slip to the other (and clearly not-better) half of a damaged marriage. With vitriol in her voice, she sings in repetition, “You can go now/You can go now,” effectively marching the unfit husband out of the picture for good. Through the use of lyric imagery, a song like “How To Survive” further contributes to the accustomed quality of the album. In this song of utter disillusionment, McKenna depicts an aimless existence amid a stalled relationship. In a frustrated tone, she sings, “How come we keep this TV up so loud/What are we so afraid of that we keep drowning out,” thus evoking the palpable stress of such a bleak reality. With such weighty subject matters, it’s worth mentioning that the songs on Unglamorous don’t sound disheartening. On the contrary, they resonate with a definitive, and often affirmative, expression. McKenna’s narrators may not know all the answers, but they do understand the scope of their problems and limitations. Ultimately, what makes this album so affecting comes from Lori McKenna’s straightforward proficiency in writing about common problems and ordinary experiences. Unglamorous undoubtedly speaks of frustration and disillusionment, but also of loyalty and love despite its drawbacks. Quite simply, the album addresses life.

Unglamorous

Lori McKenna is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw were so smart to promote her. She writes amazing music that will stay with you . "Your Next Lover", "Leaving This Life", "Witness to Your Life" and "How to Survive" are some of my favorites. All of her old music is worth checking out if you haven't already.

Biography

Born: December, 1968 in Stoughton, MA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Boston-native Lori McKenna grew up in a household filled with the rhythm and pleasure of good music, some of it happily supplied by her brothers. Music was almost always a part of family get-togethers. With such a background, it's little wonder that when McKenna grew up, she chose to become a professional singer and songwriter. In 1998, McKenna finished up work on a debut offering, an album titled Paper Wings and Halo. It was an impressive first release, filled with folk-flavored numbers like "What's...
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Unglamorous (Bonus Track Version), Lori McKenna
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