The Balladeer marks the latest installment in Lori McKenna’s brilliant and acclaimed catalog. Produced with Nashville stalwart Dave Cobb, her 11th studio album is another showcase for her polished pen and affecting storytelling, addressing its principal themes of faith, family and aging with gorgeous, laid back country arrangements and McKenna’s uncanny sense for melody.
Pretty acoustics mesh with modern production embellishments to form a sound that’s quietly pop-friendly, a testament to McKenna’s long standing track record of successful mainstream writing credits. Her autobiographical writing style is bolstered by strong narratives and lyrical specificity, such as on the compelling ode to her sister, “Marie,” and the imaginative “The Dream,” which recounts a fictionalized encounter between two important male figures in McKenna’s life.
Other highlights include “This Town is a Woman,” an atmospheric, mid-tempo ballad that recalls the harmonic sound of The Highwomen’s recent album, and the sentimental “Uphill,” a soft guitar tune that reads like wedding vows being sung to a spouse out of love and endearment. On The Balladeer, McKenna proves once more that she is adept at crafting warm and somber Americana with a heartfelt message. She reminds us that the people we impact most are those in our immediate proximity – sons, daughters, sisters, brothers – and that the wisdom we obtain through life is only as good as how much we share it with others.