Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Lori McKenna – People Get Old

Your editor found a gray hair today. It was probably someone else’s though.


Alfred Soto: From noticing how we’re turning off every light switch in the house to Dad shovelin’ snow, too proud to ask for help, Lori McKenna specializes in what I call creative writing details. She’s a sturdy melodist too — not all creative writing types can boast of such a thing. “People Get Old” is a job well done, no more, no less.

Will Adams: Ah, so it is possible to write a nostalgia song that doesn’t get mired in hamfisted references and cloying nonsense. It just takes someone like Lori McKenna to be able to add evocative detail and not be afraid to probe the rueful side of getting older.

Julian Axelrod: Our parents are people: mortal beings who fuck and die and fuck us up along the way. I’m old enough to see my parents’ faults (my dad’s stubbornness, the unchecked anxiety that trickled down to me from my mom) but young enough that it still feels perverse to observe them in all their messy truth. “People Get Old” is not a scandalous familial expose, but it’s matter-of-fact in a way that undercuts its innate warmth. Its ambling guitar lope carries a hazy familiarity, like a song you heard falling asleep in the backseat of your dad’s car and rediscovered decades later. The lyrics nod to country conventions (the second verse alone mentions fishing, trucks and her daddy’s blue jeans) but these staples feel comforting rather than rote. After all, archetypes are rooted in shared experience. And Lori McKenna has written enough country songs to know about shared experience. Her telling of her father’s twilight years carries a quiet beauty because she knows she’ll end up just like him. You’ll never live a perfect life. You just learn from your parents and hope you didn’t fuck up too much along the way.

Edward Okulicz: The music is humble, in keeping with McKenna’s low profile as a performer, but the writing is skilful such that it gives away her high profile as a songwriter. McKenna’s craft is modest and familiar without seeming too shopworn: neat rhymes, wistful stories and appealing melodies, and this has lots of all of them. It’s a hard act to pull off without sounding trite, but this really needed buckets of schmaltz all over it to be excellent, rather than good. It might actually be a better song than some of her best known works for others like “Humble and Kind,” but it surely would have benefited from every bell and whistle her A-list clients lavish on them.

Katherine St Asaph: A lovely vignette, the midpoint of country and Aimee Mann, with a nice descending guitar line. For some, that praise may not be so faint.

Stephen Eisermann: No one does melancholy reflection quite like Lori McKenna; this song takes the overdone you become your parents theme that is all too prevalent in country music and actually makes everything work, thanks to McKenna’s expressive voice. The story feels familiar enough to give you goosebumps, but specific enough that to seem autobiographical, which is important when trying to give songs authenticity, but everything is held back by the generic production. It’s to be expected from a songwriter with no major label backing, but in the hands of a stronger producer — man, what this could become!

Reader average: [7.5] (2 votes)

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