Lori McKenna – Massachusetts    8/10

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Quality songwriters easily spot each other, so Lori McKenna is long-admired in Nashville and on the folk circuit. But this new 12-song set about being a modern wife, mother and woman wasn’t written for the pros.

They are songs for Everywoman (and a lot of men), crafted with such skill you forget as you join in that she doesn’t actually live next door. (Close enough though; a small suburban Massachusetts city with a hubby and five kids.)

There’s what-if-we-split-up songs, fear of him dying songs, and ‘on reflection we’re doing not to badly considering’ songs…and ends with a farewell to a kid who has come of age.

Every home needs a copy.

FOOTNOTE: How much do you know about Lori? How much should you?

If you listen to Lori McKenna’s previous albums in order, her life story will be summed up as: married too young (16) to a frowned-upon boy, too many kids too soon, hubby turns into a womanizer and boozer.

Why did I not include that in my review of Massachusetts? Because a good album won’t need, and indeed can be spoiled by, footnotes. (Same as a review 🙂 )

I said the above is what you would conclude from her songs, not that it’s real life. I don’t know, and don’t care to.

Writing in first person is a literary device employed for any number of reasons; it may be a Dear Diary, but it may also be a fictional character speaking or some blend of fact and fiction. It’s art; if the story rings true and reaches me in some way, the artist has done their job. Why would I want to google and risk spoiling that?

Don’t get me wrong. I love how the internet can remove the corporate middle man between artists and fans, but the flipside is songs become more literal the more you know about them. Pre-internet, it meant what you wanted it to mean. The former is journalism; the latter is art. (Besides, wasn’t it fun debating whether Paul [Beatle reference. No footnote] was dead? Now we’d use the TMZ app and magical mystery solved.)

Back to Massachusetts. The less you know about McKenna’s personal life, the more those songs seem to be about every mid-life couple in the western world. Each has its ups and downs, differing only in the detail. Massachusetts is a gift too valuable to waste reflecting on someone else’s marriage.

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