St. Jorge Winery presents the Music in the Vineyard Concert Series 2012. Our inaugural amphitheater season. Featuring Singer / Songwriter Lori McKenna.
Lori McKenna’s first name is actually Lorraine. Now you know. She is named after the mother
she lost when she was only seven, but whose impact on Lori’s life reverberates to this day. In her sixth album, Lorraine, she considers the influence of her mother, who died at roughly the same age Lori is now, as well as her own place in relationship to her husband, family and community. It is her most personal album to date.
Lori’s unusual combination of professional and personal life, at least in the context of the modern music industry, is well-documented. She grew up in Massachusetts in a musical household. Her father was an excellent singer, and her mother played the piano. Two of her older brothers were songwriters, one of whom (Richard) she considers largely responsible for her career. He accompanied a reluctant Lori to open mic nights and gave her confidence that she was good enough. She began performing her songs in public at age 27, after she and her husband Gene already had three children. She and Gene continue to maintain a happy home in Stoughton, Massachusetts, adding two more children to their full lives. In addition to family, place has an important role in Lori’s songs.
“Buy This Town” almost didn’t make the album. It was written the day after the album was
completed, but Lori felt so strongly about the song, she and album producer Barry Dean went
back to the studio to record it. It’s a love letter to Stoughton, replete with images of the working
class environment and the good, hard-working people that are her neighbors
She eventually became a staple of the Boston folk music scene, where she became friendly with Mary Gauthier. “We were the two old ladies in a sea of young faces,” she jokes. When Gauthier picked up and left for Nashville, she brought Lori’s music to the attention of her publisher. They got her music into the hands of Faith Hill, who fell hard for Lori’s songs. Hill recorded three of them for her album Fireflies. Lori’s way of articulating the love, pain and pathos of domestic life had a huge impact on Hill, and Hill’s very public championing of Lori’s music led other artists to Lori’s songs. Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Alison Krauss, Keith Urban and LeAnn Rimes are among the many that have recorded her songs in recent years.
The increased acclaim for her song craft led to a record deal with Warner Brothers, who released her 2007 album Unglamorous. Working with Tim McGraw (who co-produced the album), an appearance on Oprah and an opening slot on McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul tour were heady experiences, and Lori is grateful for them.
The album closes with a prayer to Lorraine. Lori used to pray to her mother when she was a
child: there was a strong sense that Lorraine was watching over her. “I think I made better
choices in my life because I felt she was there,” Lori says. “Still Down Here” is a prayer that
Lorraine and all the loved ones who leave their earthly burdens behind remember the ones still
here on Earth, still in need of their love and guidance. With a daughter so empathetic to the
human condition and so loyal and loving to her family and community, one guesses that
Lorraine is looking down, very proud.
THE PRESS HOUSE