Tuesday, June 19, 2018

McKenna Bray Celebrates New Album

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 2:46 PM

click to enlarge McKenna Bray
  • McKenna Bray
Yes, there are many Americana singers in Tennessee. It almost seems unfair to put an artist in that box. In the case of Memphis native McKenna Bray, it almost does her a disservice. Sure, there are touches of folk all over her new album, Once in a Blue Moon (Madjack Records), and even a banjo on a couple of tracks. But there are so many surprises in the songwriting, it defies any label that might suggest the Carter Family or simple folk strumming.

As you may have read, Bray's voice evokes classic Linda Ronstadt, and that's a better point of reference. It almost sounds as if Ronstadt released a tribute album of Richard Thompson songs. The lyrics are simple and direct, perhaps lacking some of the darker allusions that Thompson is prone to, yet still with plenty of shadows. There are elements of classic pop here, mingled with earthy instrumentation and atmospheric touches, presumably courtesy of Susan Marshall, Bray's producer and manager.

click to enlarge cd.png
The band is a veritable Bluff City Wrecking Crew, featuring the core personnel of David Cousar on guitar, Ken Coomer on drums, Dave Smith on bass, and Richard Alan Ford on pedal steel and/or banjo. Other talents are sprinkled throughout, including Marshall on vocal harmonies. Al Gamble, Peewee Jackson, Jeff Powell, Matt Ross-Spang, Mark Edgar Stuart also make appearances. And Will Tucker sings a lovely duet with Bray on the ambivalent relationship song "Dive," adding some of his trademark blues guitar for good measure.

The playing is tasteful and restrained, but what really sets the album apart is Bray's voice. It is no small feat to evoke the rich alto of Ronstadt, with the same unaffected, straightforward delivery that can enliven lyrics with a disarming edge. It's understandable that she auditioned for American Idol. But really, she was too good for them. She avoids all the clich├ęs of that game. And their loss is our gain.

McKenna Bray's Once in a Blue Moon comes out on June 29. Check out her album release party tonight, June 19, at Lafayette's Music Room, 8:00 pm.

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