Nearly every song on Lori McKenna’s Lorraine makes me cry, and that is the utmost of compliments to her I hope. When David and I talked to her after a show she was in a few weeks ago I told her that — every song she did that night brought me to tears as well — and she says “Oh, I’m so sorry,” but I said don’t be. That means it’s good stuff.
I’ve been listening to the album pretty non-stop the past week, and usually what happens to me when I get a new CD is I find “the song,” the one I like the most and I listen to it over and over and over again until I’ve worn it out and then listen to the album some more until a find a new one to wear out. With Lorraine, I can’t pick a favorite. I’m touched by all 13 songs in some ways, whether it be lyrics that just wreck me, a one-liner that grips me, or a fun guitar chord or other musical jewel.
So, here’s my thoughts on Lorraine, song by song.
Rocket Science (lyrics)
This is the first song I listened to on the album because David said to. So on the way to work that morning I skipped to track 6.
It all looks good on paper.
Step by step you follow the plan.
… In burning pieces on the ground
We watched it fall.
Maybe love is rocket science after all.
I bawled. In the car in the parking lot at work, I bawled. And then I had to fix my makeup. I was bawled out of sadness over my recent failed marriage and how true those few lines were in my life. I still get teary-eyed hearing it, and depending on my mood could have a good cry over it again. A beautiful analogy and brilliant lyrics. The keyboard (on this and several tracks) is a new sound for Lori’s songs that works well with the emotion in her words and voice. Her voice, by the way, has such emotion! It’s the truth in the lyrics that touches your soul, but it’s her voice that convincingly sells it.
Luxury of Knowing (lyrics)
Before he even said so himself I recognized elements of David’s previous relationship in this song, which he mentions in his own Lorraine review. Because with David what you see is what you get (a trait I simultaneously have valued during our friendship but am still learning to fully know and understand in our new relationship). But with her it wasn’t that way.
“You know I won’t give this up unless I have to give it up.
You know I won’t walk away.”
I witnessed David feel that way and live that way for a long time, trying to hold on to and fix that relationship. And I watched her live this:
“it must be easy
Being in love with someone so blind.
Because I’ll tell you right the only thing I really know
Is that you might change your mind;
Any day you could change your mind.”
And ultimately, she did.
You know a song is based on truth and real emotions when you hear it and know exactly what a writer means when they say it.
That story aside, I love the beautiful sound of the music on this song. The guitar patterns are kinda catchy.
Sweet Disposition (lyrics)
I have to say first off that I love the sincere creativity of rhyming magician, volition, ambition and description with disposition in this song. Disposition is a hard word to rhyme to, I’d think, and sometimes song writers will use near rhyme or they’ll find a word that rhymes but you can tell it’s forced. What I love here is that I can think of no better word than volition for that sentiment, and how lucky did Lori get that volition just happens to rhyme with disposition. Of course she didn’t get lucky at all, she’s just that incredible a writer.
Other than appreciating that cleverness, this track is also kinda catchy. I can a relate a tad to the story although not too terribly much because I was never one of those girls people commented on having a sweet disposition. That phrase feels a little like “bless your heart” to me or like a consolation prize — “something going on in your life right now isn’t right but at least you have a sweet disposition” and that’s supposed to make the world OK. Think Melanie in Gone With the Wind. She had sweet disposition, a good attitude toward everything and never getting all worked up. And what I see Lori saying is that the tragedies of life can suck out one’s sweet disposition. Husbands that don’t love you, friends that use you, just all the things that go on in one’s life. Where in those times is that sweet disposition you’ve always turned to? Perhaps it gets worn out after a while. As I said, I’m not the stereotypical sweet disposition girl, but what little bit I have I can certainly relate to it being worn thin after being rocked by life’s waves.
If He Tried (lyrics)
Deep breath. David lived Luxury of Knowing. I lived If He Tried. I wanted to pull out one snippet of lyrics I could relate to and just talk about that but I can’t. I can’t because there’s not a word in the song that doesn’t pierce my heart. The two most piercing though?
“‘Do you love me?’ I say. ‘Sure,’ he replies.”
“wouldn’t it be nice if his eyes would light up when he spoke my name.”
That’s How You Know (lyrics)
I actually love this one because it’s one of the few tracks that doesn’t make me cry, it makes me glad. Despite its somber sound and a lot of truth that hurts in its words, it’s a “getting over you” song that’s real. I have a pet peeve with songs whose explicit purpose is to tell a former lover “I’m over you” because I’ve always felt like if you felt the need to say “I’m over you” you’re really not (over them, that is). If you’re really over someone — really, truly — you wouldn’t care or feel the need to tell them because by the sheer nature of being over them it wouldn’t matter to you. Lori captures the heart of moving on so well. How do you know when you’re over someone? Life goes on. And most often that’s a choice you make but for some it’s something that just happens with time. I initially processed this as getting over a relationship that ended in a break-up, but I think a stronger case could be made that it’s about moving on after losing someone in death.
I like this one and I really can’t pinpoint why. There’s a few one-liners that I like — “this time someone’s gonna listen to how she feels,” “Lord knows you can’t save her you can’t stop or change her plans,” “She knows you’re a dangerous comfort but you haven’t broken her heart yet” — because they speak to a down-and-out woman gaining the strength to stand up for herself and I’m all for women empowering themselves (though not necessarily with weapons) and not letting others trample on them.
Ladders and Parachutes (lyrics)
I had to listen to this one several times before really “getting” it. It’s pretty straight-forward but the idea of ladders and parachutes representing life’s ups and downs was a fresh perspective for me – ups being something we aspire to and reach for and make our way toward, and downs being the times when we’re falling but with parachutes that catch us and don’t let us totally crash.
‘Cause the world is full of ups and downs
Highs and lows and ain’t that the truth
But don’t you know that’s why
God made ladders and parachutes
You Get a Love Song (lyrics)
This is one of my favorites, mostly because I like the sound but also because I’m jealous of the story. Lines like “surviving every rise and fall” and “knowing the only thing harder than letting go is holding on” sting. I know the truth in that because I survived my fair share of rises and falls and times when holding on was harder than letting go, but ultimately my marriage didn’t survive them all, and that still saddens me because I know it’s possible — possible because Lori says so and that’s been her experience, but also possible because I did it a few times myself.
A touching song on discovering and appreciating the things that matter the most in life. For Lori it’s grocery store lines and high school friends and going home. “The little things make us and sometimes it takes us too long to figure what matters the most.” Amen on both points. My life? Is a commute to preschool, friends at church, baseball and bath time and bedtime stories. I often forget all those little things that really do matter the most.
“That don’t mean a thing to you but it does to me.”
This is what Lori says about reflecting on memories of her mom, her namesake. So many tales about parents, siblings, friends, etc. that are insignificant to everyone else on the planet but mean something to us personally. This song to me is full of those things that may have been forgotten by everyone else but Lori but are precious to her alone.
Buy This Town
After listening to this song a few times I thought the line “All the money in the world couldn’t buy a drop of real love could it?” was “All the money in the world couldn’t buy a dappery of love could it?” And I have no idea what a dappery is but it sounded cool so I googled it to no avail of course, because it’s not a word. Then I googled the lyrics and discovered my error. A drop of real love makes more sense, but when I hear it I still hear/sing dappery because I kinda like it. I picture a dappery as some fancy, pretty container, like a hat box or something.
That distraction aside, I enjoy this song. I like the music a lot but the adoration for her small town is moving. She told at the song writers’ concert we saw her at about writing this song while driving her kids to school one day and just thinking about their town and all the little things she loved about it. She also delayed the release of the album to make sure this track was included.
It got me thinking — what would I keep if I could buy my town? Similarly, “if I could buy one night I wouldn’t buy the one you’d think” — which night would I buy? I probably wouldn’t buy the one you’d think either. I enjoy this song for being thought-provoking like that.
All I Ever Do
This song is a bit like McKenna’s Unglamorous to me, from a few years back. It’s a glimpse into the real life and how real life is OK. It doesn’t take fancy things or experiences to enjoy life to its fullest. I had a problem with Unglamorous initially. It had the attitude “I don’t need anything in my life but what we have to make me happy,” yet it was presented in a backhanded or maybe sarcastic kind of way. From Unglamorous:
“How beautiful rhinestones on black satin shoes. The ones I never get to use.”
It simultaneously seems to be criticizing and coveting opportunities to wear pretty shoes. So I wasn’t sure which it was, but me (being me) erred on the side that she wasn’t totally happy with the unglamorous life — the life she was living — because of her awareness that her life wasn’t glamorous. If she was truly content, would she even have noticed there were things to be not content about? Kind of like my thoughts on getting over someone — if you’re really happy unglamorous you won’t know or consider it unglamorous. But I’m most likely wrong so don’t really pay that any attention because in All I Ever Do the appreciation for ordinary life filled with love comes through a little stronger.
All we ever do is work
All we ever do is pray
But I do know that I have for you
A love that never fades
All I ever do is work. All I ever do is pray. I want the love that never fades part.
Still Down Here
Jesus smiles – he’s a handsome man
He’s taller than you thought – eyes so warm – reaching out his hand
I hear that and I smile, smile at the thought of John meeting Jesus. I wonder what he thought. It’s a bittersweet thought, to be sure. I think of my grandmother who also passed away last year and a number of others I’ve known in my life who’ve gone on to the next life. Lori says “don’t forget about me still down here” and I don’t necessarily feel the same way. I think remembering us back here on Earth might be sad for people in heaven and there’s not supposed to be sadness there. I sympathize for Lori, who lost her mother as a young girl, if she was thinking of her mom when she wrote it. She chokes up on the last few words as if very emotionally moved by them. I sympathize because is that how my boys feel — do they not want their dad to forget them? How different the perspective must be to lose someone as a child. I say, be happy up there. Don’t worry about us down here. We’re fine.