As she sheds light on the notes and verses of the title track of her new album, Lori McKenna humbly offers us a master class in writing and composing. It’s a simple tale: in a seedy bar, a singer-songwriter waits backstage for her turn at the mic to begin. She meets a guitarist who makes her famous and happy, her songs can now be heard everywhere. At first, she fears that this well-deserved happiness will harm her inspiration, but she tames it. She takes advantage of it until her guitarist falls in love with a backup singer. He bitterly regrets his infidelity, and the other woman goes home. The singer writes a song about brokenhearted dreamers looking for what they will never find. Lori and Kristen Rogers (her backup singer!) deliver these stanzas with a vibration in her voice that goes straight to the skin of our forearms.
There is nothing autobiographical about this text, however. Lori McKenna was born in Stoughton, Massachusetts, where she still resides. A young fifty-something, she has had the same spouse for 30 years, and is mom to five children. Lorraine Giroux, her maiden name, reminds us of the French-Canadian diaspora in New England. Lorraine-Lori’s giftedness makes her one of Nashville’s most sought-after singer-songwriters, as well as a singer-songwriter in her own right. The statuettes accumulate on her bookshelves. The Balladeer is her eleventh album. As with the two previous ones, Nashville-based producer Dave Cobb was in charge.
“There is only one evil – disunion.” It’s this quote from the priest-philosopher-theologian-paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin that the music lover recalls, listening to The Balladeer. From “This Town Is a Woman”, a feminopolitan reflection, to “Till You’re Grown”, a poem advising children soon to be adults, the album is filled with concern for others, especially family. McKenna cares as much about her growing offspring as she does about her aging parents. Using timeless chords and noble arrangements, she paints a masterful, authentic and moving portrait of a loving mother-wife.