Customer Reviews: Bittertown
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4.7 out of 5 stars24
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on September 9, 2004
Four words: Album of the Year. Why this artist is still under the radar is beyond me. Maybe raising 5 kids while you are a recording/touring musician creates some logistical difficulties. "Bittertown" is nearly flawless. Kudos to the fine team of musicians and producer, Lorne Entress. Anyone with a love of Lucy Kaplansky, Roseanne Cash, Nanci Griffith, Lucinda Williams should FLIP over this album. Lori sings and plays as if this is her last chance to record an album. Solid songcraft, subtle and rich dynamics and the upbeat rockin' songs leave everything out there, no holding back. I can only hope more people hear this album and discover the pure genius of Lori McKenna's work. 5 BIG stars for this one.
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"Paper Wings & Halos" was a CD I found at a bargain basement price in a used bin. It was a revelation, amazing for its purity and sweetness. "Bittertown," as might be expected from the title, is a darker view, but elegant and still sweet with McKenna's melodic originality that puts her in a class with Lucinda Williams & Iris DeMent. Three of the tracks are my very favorites. "Just because you lie in his bed don't mean you mean the things you said; they marry young in these parts; they work the factory," she sings on "Bible Song" with a powerful vocal. This is a classic track. "Mr. Sunshine" is another of my favorites. Lori's alto is strong like Nanci Griffith's and wraps itself around the lyric, "You scare me more than the hard times; I know they're coming around again." "Pour" is another stellar track, more simplified in arrangement with Kevin Barry's lap steel guitar milking the country, "I don't know where my lover went, but I know he took the rent." All of the tracks on this set are consistently strong. McKenna's voice is riveting, her songwriting is stark and original, and the band backs her up like a fond embrace. This is best of the year quality. Bravo!
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on August 8, 2004
I enjoy reading other people's reviews of CDs and will often buy a CD based on a good review or a series of comments, but I rarely review CDs myself. I am really surprised to see the lack of reviews for this CD. Simply put, this is one of the best CDs of the past several years. I listen to a lot of Female singers, from the country-folk-alt-rock genre - I'm pretty sure I've tried them all - and Lori is my favorite.

And Bittertown is her best effort yet, a collection with great lyrics, imagery and mood, backed with equally impressive instrumentation and melodies. Dare I say Electic Nebraska! Best tracks include Lone Star, If You Ask, Monday Afternoon, Bible Song, One Kiss Goodnight and a few others....heck there are two only two weak tracks for my money. As an aside I have bought several copies for friends, something I rarely do since musical preferences are very personal.
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on January 2, 2006
I just happened to catch Oprah with Faith Hill very recently. Lori was also on the show, as Faith Hill had apparently decided to use some of Lori's songs in her new album. The show featured Lori singing part of "Ruby's Shoes" (song not on this album but also great). I was so moved by her lyrics and voice and decided I would Google her. That is how I came upon her most recent album. I was very surprised to see that she had released several albums in the past. Oprah gave the impression that she was a stay-at-home mom/songwriter who occasionally popped into clubs to test out her lyrics. Anyway, I was ecstatic to find that she had released music. Her voice is so heartfelt and so much more fitting to her lyrics than Faith Hill, whose voice is just too pop-py and pretentious for me. I never write reviews but felt obligated in this case as so few people have done so. Highly recommended!
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on November 9, 2005
Typical reviews focus on her small town, simple life experience or compare her to a variety of established artists. While she clearly connects with people at this level, she is much, much more.

Her lyrics do not say much on paper. But hear her sing them and they come alive. The tunes grab you and her voice, singing and personality cut through to the core.

Stylistically these songs vary echoing some early folk with touches of country and rock. The music is clearly contemporary yet brings back memories of music from long before she was born.

What unites the best, and that includes most of the songs on this album, is the combination of beautiful songs with a riveting performance. She plays with the rhythms, pushing to the edge but never falling. The songs are free of the sentimentality that plagues country notwithstanding subjects that sometimes risk this. Her singing is feisty with hints of anger that never cross over into self indulgence. Yet she touches the heart and at times is irresistible in the way best pop is.

The production is interesting. At times it appears a little too rough though better this than Nashville slick. Her voice, which with her singing is the best part of this fine album, is often too far back. One has to focus too hard at times to hear her. The recording of her voice also seems to have been overly compressed. One can only hope for a better recording and even an SACD to really bring out her very special voice.

In the end comparing her to other singer-songwriters misses the point. She is an irresistible original blending a variety of influences into unique songs delivered with real personality and beauty.
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on June 25, 2014
This album was my first introduction to Lori McKenna, and I love every single track. McKenna's smooth vocals infuse this folksy album with a wide range of emotions: "The Ledge" is fierce and almost angry, "Mr. Sunshine" is playfully sly, and "If You Ask" is bare and honest in its longing. "Stealing Kisses" was covered by Faith Hill, but once you hear McKenna's version you'll understand how powerful this song can really be. If you like artists like Ellis, early Sarah McLachlan, or Natalie Merchant, you will definitely love this sparse and lyrical treasure.
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on June 16, 2004
I love music and I am always on the lookout for new artists. In a Border's in Boston they had a small display dedicated to local artists where Lori's CD and a local review were prominently featured. Her vocals, arrangements, lyrics and story-telling were compared to Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen, Mary Chapin I purchased it and was not disappointed at all! She has shades of all of these legends as well as that of newcomer Casey Chambers, a little folky side of Sheryl Crow and the Indigo Girls.
Gritty, real, soulful, playful and catchy...these are but a few of the words that I would use to describe her work. Her songs have echoed through my soul and bounced in and out of my heart. I travel a lot and have downloaded the CD to my MP3 player and have carted the CD with me for others to listen. She is a real talent, a great story teller whose lyrics stay with you like vignettes you get to visualize in your mind and play a part within your imagination....a real treat and a real find. I have mixed feelings sharing my joy because I want so much to selfishly keep her to myself, but know I would do all music lovers an injustice by not sharing (and shouting) the news from up high about Lori's BITTERTOWN....enjoy! These songs will joyfully haunt your soul!!
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on January 18, 2005
Massachusetts singer-songwriter Lori McKenna follows her 2001 classic, "Pieces of Me," with a folk-rock album that explores what happens to people who never leave the small towns where they grew up. Unlike Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" characters, McKenna's high school bullies, frustrated factory workers and bored cops never make it past that darkness on the edge of town. In the song "Stealing Kisses," McKenna delivers the year's best lyric: "You could burn down this town if they made matches from fear."
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on August 1, 2004
This album features Lori backed up by a full band including electric and bass guitars, drums, and piano. I think this is Lori's attempt to go more mainstream with her music and she pulls it off well. This cd defies genres as it contains a bit of everything.

The folksy/acoustic/ballad tunes include 'Stealing Kisses', 'The Ledge', 'Silver Bus', and 'If You Ask'. The bluesy songs are 'Pour' and 'My Sweetheart'. 'Bible Song' and 'One Man' could be considered country. 'Lone Star' could squeeze into the pop category. 'One Kiss Goodnight', 'Cowardly Lion','Mr. Sunshine', and 'Monday Afternoon' are more upbeat modern rock-ish songs. Despite the added instruments, Lori's lyrics are as raw, and straightforward as ever.

Lori again brings the ups and downs of everyday life to song and sings them with a voice that is gripping. One word for this album: "infectious". Each time I listen I like it more and more. Though I ultimately prefer Lori acoustic, she has made an outstanding effort to appeal to a larger audience. She can do it all, with or without a band. If you like Lori, please spread the word. This lady deserves it!!
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VINE VOICEon March 29, 2006
This is my first Lori McKenna album. While a sample of her songs and the comparisons got my attention, I'd say she compares to herself. She's got a stepped up-bluegrass kind of sound and the gritty, solid voice that made many of country's greats who they are. "Bittertown" is hard to classify and even harder to get out of your CD player. Give it a listen, I think you'll agree Lori's someone whose words are worth hearing.
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