Black Music Matters Festival

Lori McKenna

Numbered Doors – 2014 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

See it on Amazon

CDs by Lori McKenna

Singer-songwriter Lori McKenna has forged a career built on consistently strong if sadly under-appreciated albums. However while sales have not reach platinum status, some of the bigger names in music - Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Little Big Town - have not let her talent go unnoticed.

Now, McKenna's latest is an interesting concept with most of the material inspired by and written in motel rooms while on tour. McKenna says the lyrics aren't necessarily autobiographical, but stem from possible scenarios, which have taken place in these rooms over the years. And it's in using that framework which McKenna has once again penned a batch of thoughtful and pretty songs. For example, the opener "The Time I Wasted," written late one evening in a Nashville motel, is one of those sweet, basic songs the likes of Steve Earle circa "Lonelier Than This" would be fond of.

Throughout, McKenna's knack for honest mini-vignettes comes to the fore, particularly during "God Never Made One Of Us To Be Alone," which talks about the waitress or the kids "getting stoned." The first so so moment is "All A Woman Wants," a song that doesn't quite ever get off the ground despite having a few moments of promise sprinkled into it. It just sounds forced.

Meanwhile, fans of the Dixie Chicks, especially their "Home" album, or Gillian Welch/Dave Rawlings should truly enjoy the mandolin-fueled title track. And a bit of Townes Van Zandt can be heard in the melodic ear-candy she creates with "Rose Of Jericho," a song that appeared on the 2013 album by co-writer Drew Kennedy. This momentum continues on what is the highlight, "Love To Be Cruel For." Here McKenna and Ben Fields build on a lovely synergy that resembles Canadian folk roots duo Whitehorse (Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland).

The homestretch features a toe-tapping slice of life "Three Kids No Husband" that will hit a nerve with any woman who was or is in that situation of a "40 hour week" and it's only Tuesday as McKenna sings. Concluding with "Starlight," McKenna has produced an album of motel room memories that should result in better accommodations while touring behind it.