Black Hills music

Songwriter Spotlight: Lori McKenna

I love great songwriters. Some of my favorites have gained a level of fame but most toil in relative obscurity. From time to time, I am going to feature some of these incredibly talented people on this Music blog as a “thank you” for the times they have moved me or made me move. I will usually attach a video of the artist or my sons or me or someone playing one of the artist’s songs.

About a decade ago a friend bought me a copy of Lori McKenna’s album Unglamorous. I vaguely recalled hearing of her because Tim McGraw and Faith Hill were trying to make her a star. So, even though the production had that Tim McGraw/Faith Hill sort of feel (which sometimes I like, sometimes I don’t), it didn’t take long to realize that most of the songs on that album were incredibly good. “Drinkin’ Problem”, “Written Permission” and “I Know You” all were so original that I thought (again) “Good thing I opted for being a lawyer because I could never write songs like this.” 

As a result of that first gift, I bought each subsequent Lori McKenna album. If I had to recommend just one it would be Lorraine. But her most recent album The Tree is outstanding as well. To test your ability to keep your emotions in check, read the lyrics for “People Get Old” as my son Cal plays it for you:

                                                People Get Old

Someone said, "Youth is wasted on the young"
I spilled every last drop of time that summer in the sun
My daddy had a Timex watch
Cigarette in his hand and a mouthful of scotch
Spinnin' me around like a tilt-a-whirl on his arm

Houses need paint, winters bring snow
Kids, come on in before your supper gets cold
Collection plates and daddy's billfold
And that's how it goes
You live long enough, people get old

I sat up right beside him in the cab of that truck
Goin' thirty miles-an-hour down a side road talkin' 'bout the fish we caught
And I'm older now than he was then
If I could go back in time, I would in a second, to his beat-up blue jeans and a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off

Houses need paint, winters bring snow
Kids growin' up and sneakin' out the window
Hittin' every small-town dirt road
And that's how it goes
You live long enough and people get old
Yeah, people get old

Daddy keeps busy in the afternoons playin' cards by himself
And he shouldn't be shovelin' that first snow, but you know he won't take the help
Full of pride and love, he don't say too much but hell, he never did
And you still think he's forty-five and he still thinks that you're a kid

One day you'll find yourself sayin' the things that he said
You'll be walkin' down the hallway, turnin' off every light switch
When you twirl your kids in your arms
Before you know it, it won't take too long
They'll be runnin' off makin' a life just like you did

Houses need paint, winters bring snow
Nothin' says "love" like a band of gold
Babies grow up and houses get sold
And that's how it goes
Time is a thief, pain is a gift
The past is the past, it is what it is
Every line on your face tells a story somebody knows
That's just how it goes
You live long enough and the people you love get old

Songwriter: Lori McKenna

Cal and I will be playing together at Good Day Cafe in Spearfish on June 19. Come on out to Spearfish’s coolest new music venue.