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Lori McKenna

Bittertown – 2004 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Lori McKenna

For all of her life's accomplishments to date, Lori McKenna should write a book on time management to explain to we mere mortals how to pack more significance into our squandered existences. McKenna's fourth album of heartfelt, crystalline folk/pop was released just days before the birth of her fifth child, both events proof positive of her love and dedication to two very important and often divergent career paths.

This is a song cycle about living your life in one spot, a subject McKenna knows well - she lives in Stoughton, Mass., down the block from the house she grew up in. And while she can detail the downtrodden and miserable lives of people who strain at the leashes of their small town captivity ("Cowardly Lion," "The Ledge"), she is just as adept at revealing the joy and peace that reside on the flip side of that same coin ("One Kiss Goodnight," "Mr. Sunshine," featuring McKenna's 14-year-old son Brian on guitar).

Musically, McKenna fits comfortably in company like Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith and Rosanne Cash, but in every other respect she is a truly original soul with an uncanny talent for looking perceptively into the hearts and lives of people from within and beyond her frame of reference.