Concert Review: Lori McKenna at Passim, 12/17/10
The Holiday Crush is upon us, so I’ll have to make this kind of quick. But because of the Crush it is important to take time out and enjoy the good things in life. One of those good things is seeing Lori McKenna on stage at Passim.
Lori, who got a shot at fame a couple of years ago when Faith Hill “discovered” what we already knew (that Lori is a great songwriter). Lori opened for Faith on her arena tour and even appeared on “Oprah” with Faith. Lori’s story (which all Lori followers know) — a mother of five writing these songs of small-town surivival — was captivating and helped her get a major-label record contract with Warner Bros. Nashville.
For whatever reason, the relationship didn’t last and now Lori is self-releasing her great new album, “Lorraine
All this is a lead-up to the show at Passim, which had her playing six shows in three consecutive nights. I went to the late show of the middle performances, which were just her and her guitar in front of an enthusiastic crowd that included some of her hometown peeps. She is surprisingly unaffected by her almost-stardom, occasionally mentioning her friend Faith and sounding perfectly fine about the way it all turned out.
Her set was a mix of old and new, opening with (I think, I could be wrong) the album’s title song, which she said is about her mother or herself or both. After all, they are both named Lorraine. She apologized for her voice being a little hoarse, a victim of the multiple show format that she’s been doing at Passim for the past seven years. Another great thing about Lori is that she is completely loyal to the people and venues that have supported her throughout her career — musicians Mark Erelli, Kris Delmhorst and Mary Gauthier were namechecked during the show.
Her voice to me, even slightly husky, sounded pretty great and really suits her songs beautifully. Is she folk? Is she country? Who the hell cares. She’s got such a unique sound, and her guitar playing is really quite good. I originally thought I would miss the accompaniment of another voice or instrument (she played with a trio on the following night), but that was not the case at all.
The older numbers included “I Know You,” my favorite from “Unglamorous,” and “Stealing Kisses,” from the great “Bittertown” the one Faith Hill covered to all the attention. Just a side note: the Faith Hill version — ick. I’m sorry, but Lori sings it with so much more feeling and tension.
The same can be said for a new song, “The Luxury of Knowing,” that is on the new album. Apparently Keith Urban has covered it as a bonus song on his new album. I listened to it online. Ick. Again, Lori’s voice is so much more real.
A couple of other great tunes she played from the new album: “Sweet Disposition” and “Buy This Town,” which she called a “furball” song, one that popped into her head as she was driving her kids back and forth and back and forth to school.
She filled most of the gaps between songs with these kinds of personal stories about her life as a mother, her relationship with her husband, and as a musician, and how they all crazily intertwine. She’s named her studio in the basement Boy in a Hoodie because “whenever she goes down there, there’s always a boy in a hoodie sitting at her computer.” The stories are always followed by a little nervous laughter, like maybe she’s revealing too much, like therapy. But it’s just her being real and that’s what her fans love about her.
For more pics from the show, click HERE.