Lori McKenna includes a song titled "Christmas Without Crying," which wonders lyrically if it's possible to make it all the way through the Christmas season without crying. It also begs the question: Is it possible to make it through a McKenna album (even just an EP) without shedding a few tears? (The answer is an emphatic 'No!') No, not even a Christmas album, which is a season that celebrates (we're told) the happiest time of the year. Then again, McKenna is nothing if not absolutely honest all the time, which is why tears of sadness, as well as tears of joy, are found throughout this strong holiday EP.
Let it be said, it takes a special artist to make Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" listenable, which McKenna does by giving it a low-key, acoustic guitar accompaniment here. Of course, though, it's far more than just listenable. McKenna's has one of those voices that make you quiet down and pay full attention.
"Hail Mary" is a piano-driven song about Jesus' mother, which has true heart and empathy for that famous 15-year-old mother. The album closes with another acoustic guitar-based song, "Grateful," a quiet reflection upon Christmas. McKenna sings, "There isn't one ungrateful bone in my body" at one point, and we unquestioningly believe her because her songs have always been so open and honest about her life. In fact, McKenna may be our most transparent hit songwriter.
Some Christmas presents give you temporary pleasure – at least until shortly after the new year. Lori McKenna's music, however, will stay with you and touch your heart for a long, long time. This brief, but special, EP belongs right at the very top of your shopping list.