By Aaron Wagner
Lori McKenna is one of the biggest songwriters in country music. With hits like “Humble and Kind” and “Girl Crush” she knows how to strike a chord and hit you right in the feels.
This past weekend she released her latest studio album The Balladeer. Full of heartbreak and love ballads mixed with words of wisdom from a mother’s perspective, it’s Lori through and through. The thing with this album as is the case for her other songs is that you need to listen intently to the lyrics.
Her lyrics and songs tell a very specific story. While some songs in country music are bops with a clever hook and addictive chorus that is fun to crank loud driving down the highway, Lori focuses on the lyrics and telling stories that are relatable and honest.
Because the lyrics are important to the music she makes, I went through each song on The Balladeer and picked my favorite lyrics from each song.
“This Town is a Woman”
She whispered all those dreams in your ear
But if she can’t make those dreams come true
She knows you’ll leave ’cause they always do
Comparing leaving a town to chase your dreams, with leaving a relationship to chase them is a powerfully vulnerable concept.
The balladeer waits in the wings
Tugging on her dress, tuning her strings
All her whiskey faded cigarette blown dreams
You can picture the musky, small stage where the balladeer plays before her songs catch popularity later in the song.
She knows bigger words than I do
But we both got the same size shoes
And no one’s ever walked in mine but me and Marie
A song about the special bond between sisters, sung from Lori’s own perspective.
And you would have loved him if you were born in his time
But he’s somewhere in your eyes
Between Heaven and Earth, it’s a damn long view
Such a beautiful concept of a song of family members who never met, meeting in a dream or heaven.
When lonesome doesn’t quite define how so alone you feel
I’ll walk with you, even if it’s uphill
Having someone’s back no matter how challenging circumstances are.
Even in the great divide
Still staying up all night
Holding on just to make it right
Still fighting the good fight
Singing about committing to your spouse no matter how trying it may be at times, still fighting the good fight.
“Stuck in High School”
So you try on every shoe and you stand in every shadow
Hope you find yourself somewhere between the first pew and the back row
But you’re always carrying around that kid
Whose picture’s in the hallway, eighteen and graduating
It might not be your typical graduation song, but it’s from the perspective of an adult who looks back and realizes that at 18 it’s up to you to be your own person, while hoping you remember what you learned growing up.
“When You’re My Age”
And I hope the front page isn’t just a reminder
Of how we keep letting each other down
A powerfully written song about a mother’s perspective at the world her kids are going to grow up in.
One got a diamond, one got a hotel room
One got a promise, one got to say, “I do”
Both up so high till they met one night
His name came up and they fell from the sky
Two birds, one stone
I know I shared the entire chorus, but this concept about a love triangle while using birds as a parallel is absolutely genius by Lori. Incredible.
“Till You’re Grown”
Smoking won’t seem so cool
That little white church won’t feel so big
This town won’t look so small
As soon as you ain’t still a kid
A song about how perspective changes on things as you grow up and get older.
As you can tell with the lyrics of each song, Lori’s storytelling ability in country music is second to none. She has the unique talent to tell stories through lyrics and song in a way that leaves a lasting impact.
Thank you Lori.