Lori McKenna

Unglamorous – 2007 (Warner)

Reviewed by Tim FitzPatrick

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CDs by Lori McKenna

Since her beginnings in the Boston coffeehouse scene, Lori McKenna has had her songs recorded by Faith Hill, toured with Hill and Tim McGraw, and now has a major label release co-produced by McGraw and his sidekick Byron Gallimore. Given this blossoming relationship with Nashville, it's no surprise that her latest release moves her in a more contemporary country direction.

However, despite the slicker packaging, her songs are still very much rooted in her suburban Massachusetts life. Marriage, addiction and family, all prevalent in her past work, are represented here.

Her best writing is emotionally open and full of vivid images. Lines like "I know what you look like just before you cry" in "I Know You" tell us something about the song's narrator as well as its subject. Details like "Peanut butter on everything" help the catchy title cut, which speaks to the household chaos that comes with a growing family, bear up to repeated listening.

While one or two cuts, like "Written Permission," feel a bit contrived, these are the exceptions. For the most part McKenna connects to classic themes in country music while avoiding of the clichés.