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Entertainment News

Sunday, 9 September, 2007 5:04 PM

CMA New Artist Spotlight: Lori McKenna

PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILSON

Warner Bros. recording artist Lori McKenna.

By Bob Doerschuk
© 2007 CMA Close Up News Service

To music insiders, Lori McKenna isn't an unknown quantity. Songwriters and performers have long lauded her knack for infusing an Americana feel with artful intelligence - a blend that places her somewhere between the intimacies of the Boston coffeehouses she once played and the more distant horizons of her imagination. Faith Hill, among others, recognized her gifts early and turned one of McKenna's songs, "Stealing Kisses," into a hit single from her chart-topping Fireflies album.

This year, however, marks McKenna's major label debut as an artist with Unglamorous, released Aug. 14 on Warner Bros. Records/Stylesonic Records. Its homespun lyricism transforms family life into poetry, and its sound marries co-producers Byron Gallimore's and Tim McGraw's sure-fire Country sensibilities to McKenna's alt-folk/rock aesthetic. Call it what you will: It's a winner.

In fact, McKenna has been making music of this caliber and documenting it on disc since 1998, when the Boston Globe included her independent debut, Paper Wings and Halo, on its selection of the year's Top 10 albums. Her writing draws from sources as diverse as traditional American folk, The Cure, Carole King, Alanis Morissette and James Taylor, the common denominators being taste, creativity and originality. What results is a narrative style that is unique to McKenna and a knack for melody and structure that earned her an Abe Olman Scholarship from ASCAP and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.

Despite her emergence into the spotlight courtesy of Warner Bros., McKenna remains close to her roots. She still lives in the Boston area home where she and her longtime husband Gene, a plumber, continue to raise their five children, though in early June she left the neighborhood to perform on this summer's Tim McGraw/Faith Hill "Soul2Soul" extravaganza.

IN HER OWN WORDS:

Who is your musical hero?
"Bruce Springsteen."

What CD is on your stereo?
"Tim McGraw's Let It Go."

What book is on your nightstand?
"The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein."

What actor would portray you in a biopic about your life?
"Someone short."

Who is your dream duet partner?
"Levon Helm."

On the Web: www.lorimckenna.com

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