Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kelly McGrath - You and Me Today

Kelly McGrath - You and Me Today 

Kelly McGrath’s first single “You and Me Today” from her forthcoming fourth studio album is a clear illustration of how this singer’s prodigious vocal and songwriting skills are in full flower. This is the first taste of a follow up years in the making to her last full length release Heartstrings. The album produced a hit single for McGrath entitled “One Foot in Front of the Other” and propelled an extensive radio station tour that saw McGrath traversing the nation in order to spread her art. The success of Heartstrings and her tireless self-promotion resulted in McGrath amassing a larger following than ever before. She reaches for her highest pinnacle yet on “You and Me Today” thanks to her courage in looking over an event that must rank as one of life’s most painful lessons yet – the death of a parent. Mortality isn’t typically good pop song fodder, but McGrath turns her trauma into the highest art with sincerity, technique, and grace.  

McGrath’s singing has invited comparisons to a variety of female icons, namely Janis Joplin, but her range is far wider and the complements fail to do her justice. McGrath’s versatility takes its more startling form not from her lung power but, instead, the combination of her phrasing and vocal strength. She knows how to utilize her dynamics to their fullest potential while still possessing enough control over her voice to modulate its effects as needed. She is likewise particularly skillful at meshing her voice with the arrangement in such a way that it becomes a duet, as it should be, between her and the accompanying musicians. Many singers, men and women alike, take over songs with their ego or craving for the spotlight and it undermines the potential in a performance. McGrath wisely avoids such pitfalls.

The lyrics are very straight-forward without ever being too obvious. There’s a good mix of the personal and general, but the real accomplishment of her writing lies in its underrated literary qualities. These manifest themselves as a talent for making the intensely personal into something resonant, universal, by incorporating the right significant details into the lyric. Her phrasing wreathes these words with an additional dramatic quality, but as before, she never has pushes too hard to achieve those effects. Her fine text for the song matches the vocal melody quite well and more than carries their weight with its unflinching depiction of grief. 

The rhythm section is quite powerful and provides “You and Me Today” with the necessary ballast, but it’s the evocative acoustic guitar work that provides the track with much of its melodic punch. This is really quite a well-rounded song with no discernible flaws. Its release is a clear sign that the long wait for Kelly McGrath’s next album has always been well worth the time and our patience will be handsomely rewarded. This is a song of rare distinction from an even rarer performer.  

William Elgin III

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