Kelly McGrath – You and Me Today
Kelly McGrath is a Nashville based songwriter whose talents defy easy categorization. Many listeners and merchants will label her as a member of the Americana genre, but her latest single demonstrates a singer, lyricist, and songwriter whose range is much wider than a narrow genre classification. There are similarities. There is no doubt of that. However, McGrath’s material has a much more personal slant than the genre’s usual assortment of pastoral invocations to worlds long gone or paeans to the simpler life. Her first three albums show a songwriter concerned with the same troubles plaguing us all, but able to express them in an unique, highly individual fashion. Those efforts reach their zenith so far with her latest single “You and Me Today”, an impassioned and quite musical confrontation with grief. Kelly McGrath does not flinch. She faces presumably the biggest loss of her life with wisdom beyond her years and talent that transcends any tragedy.
She’s capably served by a backing band who fleshes out her intentions with color, melody, and understated power. The instrumental color and melody comes from the often quite beautiful guitar playing – McGrath also benefits from a production job so attuned to the track’s sound that it’s possible for listeners to hear the plectrum hitting the strings. This sort of intimacy defines the single as a whole. The understated power comes from a rhythm section that doesn’t present itself all at once but, like everything else in this song, incrementally. The drums are the first to enter the sonic picture before the first rib-rattling bass notes bob up out of the mix. McGrath has surrounded herself with an ace group of musicians who understand the right amount of musical force to apply here in order to best highlight McGrath’s aims with the song.
It’s clear that her aims, despite the song’s gradual build, are not theatrical. McGrath makes her deepest impact on the listeners thanks to a genuine emotional connection embodied by words and melody working together instead of glossy orchestrations and heavy-handed lyrics. McGrath relates things as they were, not as she would have liked them, and the emotional timber of her voice is impossible to not notice. The words don’t aspire to grand lyrical heights, but seem committed to detailing her experience as honestly as possible and with details that not only portray her experience but, hopefully, strike a chord with listeners.
She makes her job easy with superior vocal phrasing and the aforementioned quality of commitment. From the first verse, only the deaf wouldn’t realize the wholehearted emphasis she places on conveying for listeners who her father was to her, what it is like to lose him, and what it is like to move on. The final message will impress me as the most important. Despite the loss of his physical presence in her daily life, the central theme of the song essentially seems to be that death cannot break the connection she feels to her father. Few vocalists working today could communicate that to audiences with the same stunning majesty that she conjures here.