"Laurie is a true artist. She opens hearts and sings from a place of depth and love. She held my tough NYC audience with her masterful storytelling, strong lyrics and vulnerable voice, moving them to tears and laughter. If she is performing anywhere near you, run to see her. You will not be disappointed; you will be transformed."
Laurie McClain: Reviews
Would you like to take a first class trip into the mind of a very talented, very sensitive and truly sweet girl? Well, get your hands on a copy of ASCEND, the new CD by Laurie McClain. It's like a breath of the proverbial fresh air and will very much touch your emotions in a most valuable way (if you're up for that sort of thing). Track four, "Some Forgotten Dare", is worth the price of "a ticket" many times over! Other favorites: "Rosy Glasses" and ""Ask My Soul".
"Laurie McClain has got to be from another planet. I've never met anyone -- except maybe Richie Havens -- who is so open-hearted & full of love for humanity, yet who appears to experience life on a different plane than everybody else. The world is a harsh place for souls like these, and music seems to be their tool for making sense of it. Laurie's music is as innocent as it is informed by experience, as playful as it is rooted, and as detail-oriented as it is grand in scope. Lucky for the rest of us, she's translated her Earthly experience onto record, and called it Ascend. "
"By the time I finished listening to Ascend for the first time I knew it would be on my top 10 list for the year. Laurie's songs just reach in and grab you. This collection in particular takes you on a the kind of emotional ride worth standing in line for. The presentation and performance of these well crafted songs makes you feel as if you have a front row seat to a private concert with a performer you have known your whole life. I love this record!"
Laurie McClain has always had a goal. Her long term plan was never sidelined but there were other pieces to take care of first. Life came a-calling. Laurie spent most of her time in Lincoln, Nebraska before moving to Nashville in 1997. Though not a full time touring machine, she made a name for herself in the Americana and Folk markets. While raising her three daughters, Laurie fine tuned her chops, building on her natural abilities for songwriting and performing. The time has come for the world to get Laurie’s undivided attention. Her daughters are raised and a full time music career is now in complete focus.
Vocally, there is a fragility to her voice even as she tackles tough topics and injects venom with a gentle touch on lines like “my boyfriends have ranged from bland to abusive once the initial excitement became elusive” a situation that leads to “black-eye lies” (‘Too Soon to Tell’). The instrumentation moves between country tinged fiddle and banjo (‘Somewhere in Kentucky’) and rolling riffed, harmonica infused blues (‘Angry Ways’). Her most recent release, ‘Ascend’, collects and offers styles as currency and the till is full. The album contains honest stories, earnestly delivered and confidently played. The result is that it makes you wonder, was it Laurie who was waiting to move into full time music or was it the world that was waiting to get a chance to experience Laurie.
Laurie McClain "Ascend," 2009 In "Ascend," Laurie McClain's inner "Pollyanna" -- see the cover's doe-eyed waif -- faces off with the inner cynic whose "boyfriends have ranged from bland to abusive." This dichotomy makes for ambitious, honest ("I've told those little black eye lies"), compelling, lovely listening. It is the album's strength. But some listeners may consider it a weakness, seeing candor as politics they disagree with and sincerity delivered in a voice on the Nancy Griffith side as preciousness. I found every trill and grace note in McClain's delivery chill-inducing. And check out the calliope run she sings in "Some Forgotten Dare." That's not easy to do. "He Smiled Like an Angel" tells a story you've heard before. In McClain's hands, it was a track I put on repeat after the first hearing. But where every listener should turn first is the revelatory and very pretty title track. The lyrical conceit alone is worth the price of admission: "I don't want to fall in love... I want to ascend in love." Wow! © David Kleiner
"Laurie's voice feels like my favorite moisturizer. It sinks in quickly and starts to heal. Her songs go deep and they stay with you."
Ascend Into Love
Laurie McClain used to watch the Johnny Cash Show as child and delighted in listening to the eclectic mix of guest stars that would perform. It fueled her interest in music - and folk music in particular. While her high school contemporaries were listening to Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, McClain preferred Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. So perhaps it was inevitable that she would make her way from Los Angeles to Nashville with a stopover in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Her latest CD, Ascend, is full of songs about love, hope, and a higher power. There is no touch of naiveté in McClain's songs, however. Her move to Nashville was accompanied by all the responsibilities that devolve for a single mother with three daughters in tow. Though she recorded and toured when possible, her daughters came first. So her songs, while optimistic in tone, are laced with a healthy dose of realism.
In the title song, "Ascend," McClain tells us she has "been down in some darker places, but I've got nothing to hide." So rather than fall in love, she would rather ascend in love." Not everyone who has been in the depths that accompany those dark places would view love as a salvation, let alone something to ascend to.
"He Smiled Like An Angel" is a touching song, fraught with emotion. It is the story of her brother who had died not long before the song was written. He came to her in a vision, and "he smiled like an angel," then told her he was fine.
It is difficult not to like a collection of songs that are written and performed with such honesty and sincerity.
Laurie McClain's Ascend has been nominated for Just Plain Folks Best New Folk Album of the Year. Two of her songs from the CD, "He Smiled Like An Angel" and "Pollyanna," were nominated for New Folk Song of the Year; and another, "Somewhere in Kentucky" was nominated for Traditional Folk Song of the Year.
Bill Graham is a contributing editor to FolkWax. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Laurie turns each venue into her own living room, and each listener into a new friend with her disarming humor and passionate performance. Laurie's songs explore the themes of identity, growth, friendship and love in a way that always honors the fundamental mysteries of the human journey. In this Mecca of songwriters, she is a gem of uniqueness and authenticity."
"What good folk music should be: earthy, truthful, heartfelt . . . Laurie shows listeners her naturally sweetened voice and delightful sense of humor . . . Some songs lament the world's hassles and heartaches; others long for a kinder world where everyone is happy, healthy and free . . . idealistic without becoming preachy."
"Her music cannot be thrown into one single category. It's predominately folk, but under the influence of alternative, country and a touch of blues. Her songs seem to sing themselves with uplifting energy and positive vibrations."
"Kate Wolf's classic California folk music is lovingly and soulfully praised and preserved in this fabulous tribute record. It's a fantastic job, and we think it will itself become a folk classic, it's that good."
"The music of the late California writer Kate Wolf has been interpreted by many musicians. This new release from singer/songwriter Laurie McClain may just turn out to be one of the best and most enduring efforts. McClain's gentle and not-too-polished voice and thoughtful style allow her to put her own stamp on Wolf's material while showing respect and affection for the writer's words and intent. There's not a throwaway cut on the disc; each is clearly a work of love and respect."
"Laurie McClain cannot be praised too highly for bringing us this CD. The songs here are sung as only a person with true feeling for the lyrics and music can. With few tracks under four minutes long, they still hold the ear, mind and heart. It's only January but I truly feel that I have found my album of 2004. Her beautiful voice brings the inspired lyrics and music to life and gives us a gift in this century."
"A thoroughly professional recording, warm, rich... authentic, yet unique enough to be her own... Fresh instrumentation and arrangements work to make The Trumpet Vine a valid tribute to Kate's music that should be welcomed."
"Laurie's voice has a raw, genuine classic folk resonance that pulls you into every song... She has interpreted Kate Wolf beautifully."
...whilst McClain has done justice to Wolf's songs she also clearly sings them with a genuine heartfelt connection to the lyrics, combining clarity, compassion and a tenderness in her delivery. This is one CD that is not going to move far away from my deck in the foreseeable future, and it's certainly inspired me to make the effort to discover more of Wolf's music."
"It's clear that Laurie McClain takes the meanings and nuances of Kate Wolf's words and melodies into her own soul, and presents them here for all of us to appreciate. She is a beautiful singer."
"An incredible performance with Kate's songs. Kate was a dear friend of ours and did several radio programs for us over the years. Sometimes it is very jolting to hear someone do another songwriter's songs. You first reaction is to compare the performer to the songwriter... We must be honest with you, we were moved in a way that was not expected. Thank you so much for a wonderful cd."
About two years ago, while browsing through the "compilation" rack of my favorite CD store, I came across "Hope: Mothers Helping Mothers." Even though I'm a dad, I picked it up. Andrew was three at the time. Your song caught me, and I began to make it a point to enjoy Andrew every moment I could.
When he had just turned four, his mother and I separated, and my daily contact turned into weekends only. I often turned to your song to help conjure up my baby. When he and his older brother Anthony came to visit on weekends, we almost always played Only Four, sometimes three or four or five times in a row. On his fifth birthday, Andrew belted out a hearty sing-along rendition in front of friends and family.
Now that he's five, we don't listen quite as often. He does ask if there's a song about being five. I haven't found one. He says, "That's okay, we can just change the words."
So, the point of all this is that I just want to thank you for this wonderful gift, and the joy it has brought us.
"I love Laurie's music!"