With a clear, resonant voice, ringing guitar tones, subtle country-leaning details like mandolin and bassist Maury Lafoy, Linda McLean's No Language occupies a nice niche between the gravel-road twang of Kathleen Edwards and the expansive Prairie soft rock of Jann Arden. (Lafoy also regularly makes up half of Arden's touring rhythm section.) That may sound like a strange mix, but McLean pulls it off, mostly because she writes from the perspective of a mature woman's woman. Unlike Edwards's spitfire bar-brawl drinking songs, these tunes have the ache and retrospective wisdom of a dame in her prime, and unlike Arden's MOR anthems, McLean's unafraid to root her writing in specificity or add political heft, like Calling's anti-war message, to her lyrics. McLean's heartbreak is about the jarring upheaval of divorce, not a lovers' spat; when she sings about "broken dreams" on All Around, you wonder what she's had to sacrifice for her family. Pretty and pensive.
McLean's Roots Caravan tour stops by the Cadillac Lounge Friday (December 16).