Album Review: Lori McKenna - "The Bird & The Rifle"

One of Country Music’s best storytellers finds perfect recording partner in Dave Cobb with latest album project, her first with CN Records and Thirty Tigers.

The depth from which Lori McKenna’s fountain of music comes from is as deep as our mother earth herself. The songwriter behind hits like Little Big Town's “Girl Crush” and Tim McGraw's “Humble And Kind” (a self-written song) has released eight albums prior to The Bird & The Rifle yet it feels as if she’s just arriving with this, her debut for CN Records. Working with Dave Cobb, Lori McKenna has found the perfect production partner for her own music.

Opening with “Wreck You,” a classic 70s singer-songwriter aesthetic a la Carole King is immediately evident but it’s the fantastic metaphoric and moving title track where that comparison takes hold. There are few artists who could make a high-concept lyric like this work but she does here while the harmonies and mellotron back a song that deserves mention as one of the best of the year if not the decade.

Anyone who has ever lived in a small town will certainly relate to “Giving Up On Your Home Town,” a song which really could be a single from this record, if country radio would pay attention to an artist like Lori. her own version of “Humble & Kind” is specific to each of her children and it was written (like most the songs here were) at her home in Massachusetts. Most of the songs on this record are from Lori’s life in some way but “Old Men, Young Women” is a song which comes from a different place, an observational one (“Old Men Young Women only work in the beginning…She’s a prize he’s winning…You want the lights off…he wants the lights on so he can pretend he can hold on…”) It’s a pointed piece of music.

“Halfway Home” is a song about a lonely person finding a little love, even if they’ll regret it later while “We Were Cool” is one that I personally relate to as it’s a song about those feelings you had back when you were younger. Anyone over 30, or with Teenagers can certainly relate to this song. “All These Things” is yet another radio friendly song where Lori McKenna recalls the classic songwriters of days gone by. The lyrical phrases about all the things a couple can be together is a masterclass in songwriting. The last thought applies to the closer track “If Whiskey Were A Woman,” a song where Dave Cobb allows Lori to compare various vices to women and the way those vices help a man overcome various things in their life. It’s a strong statement about taking someone for who they are, not what you want them to be, especially when the chorus comes across the speakers “If Whiskey were a woman, she would be nothing like me.”

There are few records as tight, cohesive or as ready to help an artist become known to a wider audience. The Bird & The Rifle is one of 2016’s best records, if not the best record.