Lori McKenna – The Bird And The Rifle (2016)
Lori McKenna was once described to me as a songwriting ninja, and that she is. The Bird And The Rifle finds a master songwriter in her prime, Dave Cobbs’ production is sure but gentle, and the highlight songs are an easy jump for new fans awakened by last year’s writing successes with Little Big Town (Girl Crush) and for Tim McGraw (Humble and Kind). It’s less a complete album than some of her others, most notably 2013’s Massachusetts or 2004’s Bittertown, but the kids won’t care.
My real issue is little seems to have changed for Lori personally since her debut, Papers and Halos in 2000, began to lay bare the pain of life with a flawed man and the melancholy of youth lost. She was 32 then and burning furniture for heat, and had few options.
Now she’s got millions (one supposes) in royalties rolling in and friends in high places yet still airing the same complaints about her man and the unfulfilling marriage. Her early life and songs were tremendously empowering for women leading similar trapped lives; she risks now leaving them hanging.