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ALBUM REVIEW: Arlo McKinley – This Mess We’re In

ARLO MCKINLEY

THIS MESS WE’RE IN

OH BOY RECORDS

This is Arlo McKinley’s third album but it was his last one, Die Midwestern that really elevated him into the pantheon of great contemporary country and folk songwriters. The good news is that he’s followed that superb album with another absolute gem.

This Mess We’re In features more of McKinley’s exquisite mid-paced stories and soliloquies detailing heartache, addiction and loss but, and here’s the clincher, he imbues most of them with a streak of hope and gentle optimism. McKinley approaches his songs with a raw and honesty emotionality, that always rings true courtesy of the resilience and authenticity at the heart of his songwriting.

The use of a string section gives the album a rousing classicism in the country oeuvre, like a backwoods Sinatra. Mixed with keys, guitars and pedal steel there’s a real beauty to the arrangements and the tasteful production from Matt Ross-Spang. “To Die For’ takes thing to a soul-drenched and heavy-swinging maximalist place, the title track has a touch of Elton John about it and ‘Stealing Dark From The Night Sky’ is simply one of the finest songs he’s written, its graceful sway possessing real country songwriting power. If this is the mess we’re in then it’s a masterful one.

Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service in July 2021 . Produced, Engineered, and Mixed by Matt Ross-Spang. 

CHRIS FAMILTON

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