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Alternatif et Indé - Released March 13, 2020 | Afar

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
"Artists must grow to stay relevant" is a dictum Maria McKee has always taken to heart, never more so than in her brave, sweeping, operatic new album that chronicles her spiritual journey to "a new life." Most famous as the lead singer of the LA country rock band Lone Justice, McKee embraces her interest in the occult and comes out as "a pansexual, polyamorous, gender fluid dyke." McKee recently moved to London, reinvented her marriage to co-producer Jim Akin, hired a small orchestra and penned this ambitious, mostly successful series of classical-leaning pop arias that wrestle in grandiose lyrical style with making life-altering choices after the age of 50. The key to success here is McKee's never-stronger voice. With her heart obviously committed, this is easily some of the best singing of her entire career; the title track, first single "Effigy of Salt," and "I Never Asked" inspire tour de force vocal performances. Another highlight is the celebration of her new home, "Right Down to the Heart of London," where soaring vocals and dense lyrics that namecheck William Blake make for a folky baroque pop gem. McKee's songwriting—both the words and music—has always been a lesser known aspect of her musical gifts. She has become a master at writing what she can sing best. This also means if there's a flaw to La Vita Nuova, it's that these arrangements can sound too similar. Unchanging tempos and a paucity of percussion add to the sameness. Musical wobblings aside, McKee's faith and ardent, absolutely gorgeous singing gives wings to this devotional voyage: "And I have allowed my mind / autonomy to wanderingly stray/ Into fanaticism of a daring kind /And therefore never will I find it strange ("Page of Cups")." © Robert Baird / Qobuz

Pop - Released January 1, 1989 | Geffen Records

Three years after Lone Justice's last album, Maria McKee released her self-titled debut, which showed that her skills as a songwriter had grown considerably since her first band. Not only were her songs better, but McKee's singing had improved; while it was still a little thin, her voice had grown grittier and more soulful, which made her songs all the more convincing. Unfortunately, most of McKee's musical growth was obscured by Mitchell Froom's mushy overproduction. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

This title of this volume documenting two distinct concerts done by Maria McKee (post Lone Justice) under the heading Live at the BBC is in some ways misleading -- she wasn't performing for the radio stations per se, but her headlining concerts were broadcast by them. Recorded in 1991 and 1993 respectively, these shows were taped at pivotal times for the artist. The first date -- the first seven songs here -- feature McKee as an American expatriate, living in Dublin and backed by fellow townies Moby Dick. The material is gathered from her days with Lone Justice and includes "Good Heart," "Shelter," and "I Found Love," as well as her chart-topping U.K. hit "Show Me Heaven." There are also a couple of cuts from her self-titled debut, released almost two years earlier: "I've Forgotten What It Was in You (That Put the Need in Me)," and "Drinkin' in My Sunday Dress." The latter 11 tracks were recorded as McKee toured in support of You Gotta Sin to Get Saved and include most of that album's highlights such as the title track, "My Girlhood Among the Outlaws," "Why Wasn't I More Grateful," and the two Van Morrison covers "My Lonely Sad Eyes" and "Young Lover's Do." Both of these selections feature top-notch recordings and are fine performances, but the latter one actually tops the former because of its seasoned approach to the material -- McKee had been playing with Moby Dick as her backing band for almost four years at that point. While the earlier set uses crackling enthusiasm to make up for some of the sloppiness inherent in the performance, the latter is somehow more polished and more spontaneous, and nowhere can this be felt more than in McKee's vocals, which go out and walk the wire of her range and dig deep into the well of her marrow for expression. She has a net and therefore goes all the way inside to let it all go. Either way, for fans, this volume is of the essence. It captures an artist who was still a semi-public and active member of the recording community before her great shifts, which occurred first on 1996's hard rocking Life Is Sweet, and have continued into the 21st century. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released January 8, 2020 | Afar


Rock - Released January 1, 2000 | Hip-O (UC)

The Ultimate Collection collects Maria McKee's definitive moments with Lone Justice and as a solo artist. Her sensual yet down-to-earth vocals and gritty songwriting stand out on Lone Justice tracks like "Don't Toss Us Away," "Shelter," and "Ways to Be Wicked"; her growth as both a singer and a writer is reflected on solo songs such as "Absolutely Barking Stars," "Breathe," and "What Else You Wanna Know." The collection also includes some interesting bonuses, including Lone Justice's live version of "Sweet Jane," an acoustic demo of "Show Me Heaven," and "If Love Is a Red Dress," which originally appeared on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. At 17 tracks long, This One Is for the Girl comes pretty close to being an ultimate collection of McKee's body of work. © Heather Phares /TiVo

Pop - Released January 1, 1993 | Geffen


Pop - Released April 2, 2007 | Cooking Vinyl


Rock - Released July 27, 2004 | Little Diva Records

Recorded in May of 2003 in support of her High Dive album, Maria McKee and her uncredited backing band offer a show brimming with emotion, tight and crisp performances of songs from three of her four records, and stellar live sound. The lion's share of the material comes from the aforementioned recording and the still provocative Life Is Sweet. There is a beautiful version of "Breathe" from her self-titled debut in the set as well. McKee's performance is inspired, and these versions of songs from her catalog offer the best evidence yet that she is at her best in a live setting -- the readings of "Absolutely Barking Stars," "Be My Joy," "High Dive," "Scarlover," and the encore, "Life Is Sweet," may indeed be the definitive versions -- so far. While it would have been nice to get a live album of new material, this certainly has its place. The album does have one serious irritation, however. There are nearly three minutes of applause after "Something Similar," the set closer. As if this weren't enough, after a cloying introduction and an impassioned offering of "Life Is Sweet," the listener is burdened with another five minutes of thunderous applause before the disc fades into silence. Whether this is just a gag or a strange kind of evidence to prove that she is still loved despite her spectral presence on the recording scene is unclear, but the effect is nonetheless irritating. But everything that comes before it is a delight. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Alternatif et Indé - Released September 11, 2006 | Cooking Vinyl

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Folk/Americana - Released March 4, 2020 | Afar


Rock - Released April 19, 2005 | Eleven Thirty Records

Peddlin' Dreams is Maria McKee's fifth studio outing since 1989. Since leaving Lone Justice in 1988, she has consistently frustrated her fans' expectations, not only for her infrequent recordings, but also for her restless muse that has taken her from pop (Maria McKee) to roots Americana and R&B (You Gotta Sin to Get Saved), squalling art rock (Life Is Sweet) and textured neo- psychedelia (High Dive). There was a live album issued in 2004 as well, but for the most part, McKee has stubbornly followed her own path for the past 16 years. While her label touts Peddlin' Dreams as a return to rootsy American rock and folk styles, and as the album that logistically follows You Gotta Sin. Simply put; this isn't true. This is not a look back but a further look in. It's true that acoustic guitars permeate this mix by producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist Jim Akin, and the songs walk the folk-rock border, but they are the frame for the rich, labyrinthine, multidimensional songs here. McKee wrote or co-wrote nine of the album's 12 tracks. Using folk, country and rock backdrops, McKee's songs offer stories of the broken, the lost, the wider-eyed and the hopeless. There's the confessional longing of the protagonist in "Season of the Fair" where memory, evoked by emptiness and rejection, wraps itself in the warm embrace of strummed, unplugged six-strings and lets itself fall framed by an organ, a lone electric guitar punching through the refrain, and the singer's voice, trying hard to hold what is not only fleeting but weighted in unrelenting pain. The loose, slippery country-rock of "Sullen Sou," alternates between the balance of guitars and just behind the beat drums as the singer lets the depth of her emotion flow in images from her mouth like raw honey. The cover of Neil Young's "Barstool Blues," is faithful, shambolic, and drunken. But McKee's delivery carries an emotional weight that Young's never did. This isn't reverie; it's misery. "The Horse Life" is a waltz, layered in staggered guitars and pedal steels, where yearning and fantasy crisscross with fleeting hope, and shimmering poetry with poignancy and elegance. Peddlin' Dreams is a melancholy record to be sure, but it's moving, utterly beautiful and carefully, artfully wrought. It is the work of a masterful songwriter whose senses of time, place and character are impeccable. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

Alternatif et Indé - Released October 31, 2019 | Afar


Country - Released April 7, 2015 | Viewfinder Records