Lori McKenna

Lorraine – 2011 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by Nelson Gullett

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CDs by Lori McKenna

Lori McKenna's given name is Lorraine. It was her mother's name as well. McKenna lost her mother when she was just seven years old and now pays tribute to her with this new record and its deeply personal title track. The song is filled with McKenna's vivid childhood memories of her mother, from the smell of her kitchen to the smile on her face as she danced to her old Judy Garland records. Each vignette recounts what are seemingly inconsequential moments from their relationship, but moments that hold a dear place in McKenna's heart. As she says at the end of each verse, "It don't mean a thing to you, but it does to me." And maybe it shouldn't mean anything to the rest of us. It isn't our story. The thing is, though, by the time McKenna is done telling it, she makes it ours as well.

McKenna's strength as a songwriter has always been taking the personal and making it universal. The fact that she has mostly abandoned the glitzy Nashville production of 2007's "Unglamorous" in favor of a more intimate sound only strengthens the impact of McKenna's words. Her hometown in Massachusetts becomes Anytown, USA in Buy This Town. Even her relationships mirror our own, through uncertainty in Luxury of Knowing and undying devotion in You Get a Love Song.

By the time the album closes with Still Down Here, a song modeled after the prayer a young McKenna would recite every night, we know the song, and maybe the album itself, is a personal plea from a daughter to her departed mother to remember those left behind.

Maybe it shouldn't mean a thing to the rest of us. But it does. It means everything.