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Lori McKenna


Much of the hoopla surrounding Lori McKenna's major label debut focuses on the mother of five's dramatic rescue from domestic obscurity. You've probably heard the Oprah-worthy tale of how mainstream country megastar Faith Hill was so smitten by a tape of the Boston-based upstart's material that she went back into the studio to add three of McKenna's tunes to an already completed project. The album was Hill's smasheroo Fireflies record and McKenna's life will never be the same.

It's a heart-warming story to be sure, but it should never be allowed to obscure the homespun, no-nonsense power of McKenna's impeccably crafted songs. Nor should it fudge the fact that McKenna was an established New England indie troubadour for years before her fortuitous Faith connection started opening doors on Music Row.

On Unglamorous McKenna demonstrates beyond doubt that she can kick it with the big girls in both the literate folkie and radio-friendly realms. With able studio guidance behind the board from Nashville stalwarts Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw (that's Mr. Faith Hill, for those of you just visiting this planet), McKenna endows the commonplace with rich meaning. She's an expressive, versatile vocalist and a lyricist of sneaky precision, one who nails reality right between the eyes with a conversational tone and the gritty details of engaged everyday life.

At the peak of her powers, McKenna celebrates our most enduring heart-to-heart connections with hard-earned, level-headed ardor. Cue up emotional rousers like the title track, "I'm Not Crazy," and "Witness To Your Life," and give your significant someone an appreciative squeeze. Don't fight it, buddy, life's too short to keep it under wraps.

That said, does the 11-song set occasionally drip with country Top 40 bombast? Well, yeah, but McKenna’s earned her shot at the gold ring. Anyone who thinks that raising five kids, holding a marriage together, and mounting a serious music career is easy has their head too far up their butt to merit an opinion. You go, Momma.
• Mike Thomas

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lorimckenna.com     her myspace       

warnerbrosrecords      our 2005 interview with Lori

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