Maria McKee - Peddlin' Dreams (2005) FLAC

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Artist: Maria McKee
Release: Peddlin' Dreams
Discogs: 3297216
Released: 2005
Label: Cooking Vinyl, Indigo / Cooking Vinyl
Catalog#: COOKCD335-CDR, 5997-2 / COOKCD335
Format: FLAC / Lossless / Log (100%) / Cue / CD
Country: UK
Style: Blues, Folk, World, & Country, Rock, 

Tracklisting:

01. Season Of The Fair (3:33)
02. Sullen Soul (4:26)
03. Turn Away (3:22)
04. Peddlin' Dreams (4:30)
05. My One True Love (3:38)
06. People In The Way (4:13)
07. The Horse Life (3:06)
08. Drowned And Died (4:14)
09. Appalachian Boy (5:04)
10. Everyone's Got A Story (3:04)
11. Barstool Blues (3:04)
12. (You Don't Know) How Glad I Am (2:53)


When music discussion turns to the awkwardly named and hardly relevant term ΓÇ£alt-country,ΓÇ¥ inevitably the discussion circulates around two points: Farrar and Tweedy. Certainly the terrain has become increasingly complex with bands and singer-songwriters exploring the intersections of punk, indie rock, and Americana in a way that blurs the distinctions between all of them. The sound that Tweedy and Farrar made within the context of Uncle Tupelo wouldnΓÇÖt seem anywhere near as fresh and interesting today as it did in 1990. But thatΓÇÖs history, thatΓÇÖs the way things work. The development of any genre or sound needs its pioneers, it needs focal points listeners can hold onto and examine as they figure out whatΓÇÖs going on (and if they like it). Unfortunately this also means that worthy contributors to the growth and popularization of ΓÇ£the soundΓÇ¥ can be unfairly overlooked. Part curtains, turn on spotlight, enter Maria McKee.

When Lone Justice rolled onto the scene in 1985, Uncle TupeloΓÇÖs debut No Depression was still five years off. The term ΓÇ£alt-countryΓÇ¥ had yet to be credibly uttered but critics and fans alike were being swept of their feet by both the urgency of Lone JusticeΓÇÖs sound and the startling pipes on Maria McKee. There had yet to be a popular female voice in the progression of alt-country; Lone Justice made a near irrefutable case for McKee on stunners like ΓÇ£Ways To Be WickedΓÇ¥ and ΓÇ£DonΓÇÖt Toss Us Away.ΓÇ¥ Lone Justice was already beginning to strain under the forces of impending stardom. Problem was that it was McKee who was slated to be the star, an alt-country diva who would fit the glass slipper dropped by the likes Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Lone JusticeΓÇÖs last album Shelter consisted of glossy pop tunes and none of the conviction of its predecessor. It cemented McKeeΓÇÖs departure for a solo career.

And it hasnΓÇÖt been a half bad solo career. Beginning with 1989ΓÇÖs Maria McKee it was obvious that McKeeΓÇÖs future was bright. While perhaps not being a fully realized vision of what McKee could do on her own, Maria McKee was still a beguiling look at what she might be able to do. ΓÇ£Panic Beach,ΓÇ¥ ΓÇ£Breathe,ΓÇ¥ and ΓÇ£Does He Have A Friend For MeΓÇ¥ amongst others demonstrated that McKee was more than just a pretty voice. She was a songwriter of note and a good storyteller. The follow-up, 1993ΓÇÖs You Gotta Sin To Get Saved, seemed to be sucked clean of emotion despite working with rapidly ascending alt country stars like The Jayhawks. The album was more a paean to the idea of 70ΓÇÖs honky-tonk flavored rock than a fully invested attempt at rocking out. It was no failure, but it did seem to indicate McKee might be losing interest in the sound that put her on the map.

The ensuing years brought two solo records: 1996ΓÇÖs Life Is Sweet and 2002ΓÇÖs High Dive. Some basic arithmetic shows 6 years between albums. Six years in the ADD addled world of pop music is a lifetime. But McKee had developed a loyal, fervent following that attended her shows and waited patiently for whatever she would do next. What she was doing was, at best, a distant cousin to the Americana rock that she had begun over ten years ago. A Dixie Chicks cover of her song ΓÇ£Am I The Only One (WhoΓÇÖs Ever Felt This Way)ΓÇ¥ kept the rent paid but it was no indication that she was ready or willing to return to form. Her solo work was now nearly cinematic in scope, coming closer to musicals than rock. It was big and dramatic, filled with huge crescendos, loud guitars, overdubs, and strings, songs that shunned the slice of life stories of fans had come to love. Instead these later solo records tackled the larger issues that went on behind those stories. What got lost in all of this, though, was perhaps the most important element of all: McKeeΓÇÖs powerfully affecting voice.

So here we are with PeddlinΓÇÖ Dreams, the album that musically should have followed You Gotta Sin To Get Saved. PeddlinΓÇÖ Dreams is a conscious return to what many think McKee does best. She simply plays her guitar and sings, accompanied here and there by percussion, pedal steel, and piano. But the stars are her voice and songs.

And these are powerful songs. They are also sad songs. While McKee may have once found life to be sweet, PeddlinΓÇÖ Dreams seems to say maybe life ainΓÇÖt so sweet. Album opener ΓÇ£Season Of The FairΓÇ¥ is a story of lost love adorned by acoustic guitar and McKeeΓÇÖs voice, organ accents, and a quiet electric guitar solo. ΓÇ£Sullen Soul,ΓÇ¥ one of the more upbeat song on the album, starts with an expansive guitar run and pounding drums before settling down to let McKee drown our sorrows in her voice. The song is really a perfect hybrid of her early Americana work (both solo and with Lone Justice) and the grandiose vision of her later solo work. The verses are quiet but the chorus explodes out from the song with McKeeΓÇÖs voice and a searing guitar run rising to blow the froth away.

The real power on PeddlinΓÇÖ Dreams are the gentle semi-ballads. ΓÇ£Turn AwayΓÇ¥ is all quiet heartbreak. ΓÇ£PeddlinΓÇÖ DreamsΓÇ¥ is disappointment set to a shuffling beat. ΓÇ£People In The WayΓÇ¥ rises to a mid-tempo pace floating on a horn and piano while McKee sings about benders not taken and ways to escape what clings to the insides of our heads. The sole cover on the album of Neil YoungΓÇÖs ΓÇ£Barstool BluesΓÇ¥ has McKee belting out the lyrics with passion. ItΓÇÖs a powerful testament to where sheΓÇÖs been. ΓÇ£EveryoneΓÇÖs Got A StoryΓÇ¥ is what Lone JusticeΓÇÖs semi-hit ΓÇ£ShelterΓÇ¥ could have been if it hadnΓÇÖt been polished to such a perfect 80ΓÇÖs pop gleam.

There isnΓÇÖt a bad song on PeddlinΓÇÖ Dreams. In a perfect world this album will pop up on a number of end of year top 10 lists. But as it is PeddlinΓÇÖ Dreams will have to settle for being recognized as the best alt-country/Americana record to come out so far this year. ItΓÇÖs a welcome return to form for one of the best voices working in any genre.		
Maria McKee - Peddlin' Dreams (2005) FLAC/01 - Season of the Fair.flac 22.947 MB
Maria McKee - Peddlin' Dreams (2005) FLAC/02 - Sullen Soul.flac 29.971 MB
Maria McKee - Peddlin' Dreams (2005) FLAC/03 - Turn Away.flac 19.596 MB
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