Massachusetts songwriter Lori McKenna's songs are best known for making other artists famous. Her contributions to Faith Hill's Fireflies disc landed McKenna a tête-à-tête with Oprah, while her recent collabos with Mandy Moore helped the erstwhile teen pop princess ease into her new barefoot folkie persona.
Unglamorous may be the album that finally brings McKenna the recognition she deserves as an artist in her own right, which has both good and bad sides. On the positive tip, there are some fine, fine tunes here that showcase McKenna's skill at telling subtle stories with depth and honesty. Lead track I Know You eschews the romantic dialectic of so many new country songs (love's either squishy and saccharine or a beer-bottle-smashing mess) to detail a portrait of enduring domestic comfort; Falter traces the biography of a derelict; Drinkin' Problem is a portrait of a drunk, classic-country-duet-style.
But Tim McGraw's country-radio-friendly production weighs down the disc. It's not that the singer can't pull off that shiny-toothed Faith Hill warble. She can. Still, McKenna sounds best stripped down and rough around the edges. Both her voice and writing deserve more modest frames. Too bad it's precisely that new, glossy sound that's likely what'll bring McKenna to the masses.