"Three years after Lone Justice's second and last album, Shelter, lead singer Maria McKee stepped out on her own with her eponymous debut. She adds some more country tinge on some of her rootsy guitar sound, and still has that husky rock-country voice that is lilting soft on one hand, goes into an emotional crescendo the next, and even into a quasi-yodeling mode at times."I've Forgotten What It Was In You" veers towards country and features some nice strings. A very good opening song that sets her new material from the old.There's a Bruce Hornsby-Dylanesque feel in "To Miss Someone", in which she plays a fragile, lonely woman going through the aftermath of an affair. "Nothing fits and everything feels wrong/I guess it's useless to deny it/I'll admit I've been crying/Guess I'm not so independent after all" she says in one verse.OK, the moment I've been waiting for. Maria here was the originator of the wry "Am I The Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way) a full decade before the Dixie Chicks did it on their Wide Open Spaces album. When I heard it, I thought, "Hang on a minute, I know that song!" It's country-tinged like the remake but emotionally, Maria's original is more convincing, especially when she speaks of "a wound inside of me/...bleeding like a flood.""Nobody's Child" features her lilting and lovely highest range. This might as well be the "Bridge Over Troubled Water" on this album, a sad ballad of comfort: "Take this veil/and I'll dry your eyes/In a world like ours/you're nobody's child.""Panic Beach" is the oft-wry and humorous story of a singer telling the events of the happenings at a bar and the antics of the "vaudeville bums" and clientele, one of whom "don't sweat, she sours and melts like ice cream in the sun." Throughout it, the struggling protagonist vows to do her time and say goodbye to the title place, even saying "I may be hungry but my rent is free.""Can't Pull The Wool Down (Over The Little Lamb's Eyes)" has a sound that recalls Lone Justice's "Belfry" from Shelter, but with country-ish backup singers.Heartfelt country ballad time with "More Than A Heart Could Hold" which features a gospelish choir, and she goes into a searing gospel mode herself at one point. One of the better songs here.The bluesy and country-like "This Property Is Condemned" sees seedy life through the eyes of a poverty-ridden girl in New Orleans remembering better days. "Breathe" is of the same kind, except it's a slow ballad.Her cover of "Has He Got A Friend For Me" is a melancholy piano-only ballad of a wallflower, described as a girl who's clumsy and shy dying of loneliness on Saturday night. The line is a question the protagonist asks her girlfriend regarding her beau. Hearing the line "And nobody wants to know/anyone lonely like me" rang a jarring chord with me. Another poignant lyric: "He wouldn't notice me passing him by/I could be in the gutter/or dangling down from a tree." One of my favourites on this album."Drinkin' In My Sunday Dress" reminds me one of those rambling folk-country songs on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, wry and humorous: "My radiator growls like Elvis after Sunday dinner."A big jump from Lone Justice's brand of roots-rock, Maria McKee's debut was the closest I came to buying country in my early days."
True beauty and Richard Thompson to boot.
Werno | NJ USA | 07/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The woman can take you off-planet with her voice, write songs that drip with atmosphere and heart, and even make 'distressed roots' producer Mitchell Froom behave himself so that the focus here is on putting each song in a damn near perfect setting and performance. Doesn't hurt that Brit guitar god Richard Thompson is laying down textbook tasty licks and heart-arcing solos all over the place (try 'Breathe' and 'This Property Is Condemned' for examples). Organist (Paul?) Brody shows how it should be done with his inventive and evocative textures. There aren't many albums I've heard where it all comes together better than here.If you've heard the Dixie Chicks cover of Maria's 'Am I The Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way)' buy this album to check out the real thing, in every sense."
Maria McKee : She'll Grab Your Ears and Won't Let Go !
Craobh Rua | N. Ireland | 02/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Born in LA in 1964, and having released two albums with Lone Justice, this is Maria McKee's first solo album. Released in 1989, and recorded in Hollywood, Dublin and London, nine of the eleven tracks were written solely by Maria. A tenth ("More Than a Heart Can Hold") was co-written with Robbie Robertson. Featuring, among other things, a Hammond organ and strings, the best description is country-rock with a slight bluesy twinge.
The album gets off to a great start with "I've Forgotten What It Was In You (That Put The Need In Me)". Despite the title, it's quite an up-tempo number that sees Maria fairly belting out the vocals. She puts in a similar performance on "This Property is Condemned", which also features a moody bassline and rock-n-roll-esque guitars. However, it's "Panic Beach" - another of the album's livelier songs - that I'd pick as the best track. It has a great tune, great lyrics and could easily have been subtitled "When Showbiz Goes Wrong". Sometimes, it does you good to hear a song like this !
There are a couple of more gentle songs on the album - "Has He Got a Friend For Me ?", the only song that doesn't see Maria with a writing credit, is a very good example. She also gives her backing band its only break for this track, and accompanies herself on the piano. Two of the songs that were released as singles also stand out : "To Miss Someone" shows just what a nice voice Maria has, while "Breathe" is one of the few songs where things actually seem to be working out !
There simply isn't a bad song on this album, and I can't understand why Maria McKee didn't become a huge success. She has a voice that can convey the mood of a song perfectly - hurt, need, calm or just generally fed up ! Highly recommended !"
Still splendid singing songs solo!
Craobh Rua | 01/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a huge Lone Justice fan, particularly of Maria McKee's amazing live performances with them, I was extremely disappointed when the band broke up so quickly after gaining national recognition in the mid-80's. Their first recording was absolutely perfect, and the second was inconsistent but contained a few of the great songs that were highlights of their concerts, and served as a reminder all these years of what they could do in person. When I read, years later, that Maria McKee had gone softer, solo, and born-again Christian, I (wrongly) concluded that was that and put her out of my mind. When a long-distance friend told me how great her early solo recordings were, I was a bit skeptical, and decided to err on the side of caution, never buying or hearing them.Recently I decided that 15 years was caution enough, and picked up this CD. I'm so glad I did! It is extremely enjoyable, and, to my surprise, a huge improvement over "Shelter" (sorry, I can't make comparisons to her later CD's I haven't heard yet). Maria McKee's strength, in my opinion, lies more in the passion of that amazing soprono, that seems to just burst miraculously from that tiny ball of energy, than in her songwriting - some of the best Lone Justice songs were written by other band members. But the writing here, almost all her own, is actually fairly good, and the production by Mitchell Froom is restrained and perfect. It remains tasteful and timely 15 years later. The vocal performances are absolutely stunning. On the eponymous first Lone Justice recording, McKee was uniformly brilliant, but her restraint on most of the numbers on "Shelter" didn't suit her any more than the overproduction did. She varies the tempo and volume here, but cuts loose at some point on most of the songs, to very good effect. The style varies, and she never really rocks the way she did with her old band (though "Drinking in My Sunday Dress" sounds remarkably like "Soap, Soup, and Salvation"). But the passion and energy I remember from her Lone Justice days is present throughout, along with the strength of that amazing voice. While there isn't anything that hits quite as hard as "East of Eden" or "I Found Love", there is a consistently high level of energy and competence, and this recording has been in my CD player for days.I wish I'd picked this up 15 years ago, but it's not too late - highly recommended for Lone Justice fans - I can't speak to her later work, but this CD is not a drastic departure from her earlier work, and it's uniformly excellent!"
A VOICE OF PURE ETHEREAL BEAUTY
btrixter | Athens Greece | 01/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Maria McKee is easily the most overlooked female singer in music history. Quite a claim! I know, but I challenge you to find a stronger voice after, say, Aretha Franklin. There is simply no better country singer on the planet - not Loretta Lynn, not Tammy Wynette, none of the moderns - forget the Dixie Chicks, and Neko Case, as glorious as she can be, cannot begin to approach the tortured angelic ecstasy that pours out from Maria's voice. She leaves everyone else in the dust. Listen to Panic Beach off this record and experience four minutes of rapture. If you're still in one piece, try More than a Heart Can Hold for the best country gospel you're ever likely to hear! So uplifting, it's a religious experience... every time I listen I want to dissolve myself in her breath and spirit."