Album Review: Lori McKenna — Heart Shaped Bullet Hole

Juli Thanki | October 29th, 2012

lorimckennaheartshapedLori McKenna doesn’t write so much as lay open a vein with each new lyric. It’s the reason A-list artists like Faith Hill, Keith Urban, and, on the bluegrass side, Alison Krauss, record her songs. New digital-only EP, Heart Shaped Bullet Hole, a follow up to last year’s excellent Lorraine, finds the Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter navigating the rocky landscape of long-term relationships.

“Whiskey and Chewing Gum,” co-written with Troy Verges (I Would’ve Loved You Anyway,” “Backseat of a Greyhound Bus”), ranks among McKenna’s strongest songwriting—and singing–work to date, as she works her way through a number of apt similes, including “Some love’s like chewing gum: it tastes good when it’s new/But it don’t take long until it’s tired and it’s tasteless to you/Like motions you don’t feel, but you learn to close your eyes and just go through.

The rocking title track, “Heart Shaped Bullet Hole,” with its electric guitars and thumping percussion, is a hard-edged contrast to the plaintive folk-pop that makes up the rest of the six-song album. It feels slightly out of place sandwiched between soft ballads “No Hard Feelings” and “This and the Next Life,” but it’s a well-sung, well-written song, and it’s easy to imagine a mainstream country spitfire like Miranda Lambert finding commercial success with it.

There isn’t a skippable track to be found here, and if an album can have a backbone, it’s “Sometimes He Does,” a song depicting the ups and downs of a married life that’s well past the honeymoon phase. We all fall short and love can fail in gut-wrenching fashion. But it can be the smallest, rarest things—a whispered name, a note scrawled on scrap paper—that make the whole beautiful mess worth it.

4 Stars

Preview or purchase Heart Shaped Bullet Hole

  1. Ken Morton, Jr.
    October 29, 2012 at 10:47 am

    We all fall short and love can fail in gut-wrenching fashion. But it can be the smallest, rarest things—a whispered name, a note scrawled on scrap paper—that make the whole beautiful mess worth it.

    Juli, great description. I couldn’t agree more about “Sometimes He Does.” It truly is a fantastic track. McKenna has a wonderful quality of being able to paint the truth about relationships. It isn’t all roses. There are ebb and flows and she describes both sides in beautiful and honest fashion.

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