Album Review: Lori McKenna - “The Tree”

Lori McKenna's second album for CN Records showcases why she remains one of the absolute best singer/songwriters to emerge out of Nashville (or Massachusetts) in the past 20 years (if not all time).

It feels just like yesterday that Lori McKenna released the brilliant The Bird And The Rifle yet it was actually two years ago. The A-list songwriter (“Girl Crush,” “Cry Pretty,” “Humble And Kind”) once-again teamed with Dave Cobb, a producer who kindly stays out of the way to let McKenna’s stunning storytelling do the work on The Tree. Those brilliant musical vignettes discuss aging (and the very human nature to bemoan the fact) in “People Get Old” while “A Mother Never Rests” is perhaps the best song I’ve heard about a mother’s never-ending love (and often worries) for her her children.

“The Tree” is all about family. It’s about how they’re there for us, even when we leave or need to comeback or when we absolutely feel like they’re not there but they really are. Always a folksy singer, the two time Grammy winner (“Girl Crush” and “Humble and Kind”) tells the story (with “You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone”) about someone so into their own world that they overlook their partner, who ultimately leaves him for his lack of caring. “You Can’t Break A Woman,” a song written with her “Love Junkies” co-writers Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose, is a classic country story song which isn’t dissimilar to “You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone.”

“The Way Back Home” Is sort of “Humble And Kind, Part Two” but that’s not a bad thing as she serves up some more mature advice to her grown up children while her own take on the Little Big Town hit “Happy People” is all the better for the arrangement here, a song stripped down to its essence and feeling like a long-lost 1970s AM radio staple.

Lori McKenna remains an engaging storyteller with a unique, identifiable voice. The Tree is a perfect example as to why she remains one of country music’s best at crafting very good, listenable records.