Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kelly McGrath - You and Me Today

Kelly McGrath - You and Me Today 

Despite the omnipresence of it in our lives, physical and otherwise, very little of our art concerns itself with examining death. Invariably, when a songwriter or poet turns their attention to the subject, it’s from the point of view Kelly McGrath adopts in her latest single “You and Me Today”. McGrath sings from the point of view of a survivor, one of those left behind to pick up the pieces after a close loved one dies, and her stirring performance never risks the hackneyed or overwrought. Instead, she approaches this event in song with the same grace the reality of her loss demanded from here in real life. Everything about this song rings true. There is a sense of hard-won wisdom emanating from the mid-tempo arrangement and the plaintive tone of loss infusing McGrath’s voice is unmistakable. She doesn’t subject the listener to a single note longer than the song needs and it’s a little astonishing that she manages to so comprehensively touch on a deeply emotional experience within three minutes eight seconds.  

It is remarkably patient for such a relatively brief song. One expects that such a profoundly requires a larger stage to communicate its enormity, but McGrath’s less is more approach belies more incremental ambitions. “You and Me Today” succeeds, in no small part, thanks to how well it understands its listeners. The rising and ebbing of human emotions, especially after such a transformative event, mimics the lightly handled orchestration so evident in this track. It starts off in muted mood, McGrath’s voice accompanied by acoustic guitar, and slowly climbs in intensity. The rhythm section gives the song a sturdy skeleton that McGrath’s other musical cohorts surround the skeleton with sparkling color that nonetheless has a darker, moody side. The mid-tempo pace that the song takes is ideally suited for both the subject matter and McGrath’s voice. 

The lyrics are tightly written and, like the arrangement, never waste any energy with extra material that means nothing to the song. The focus is laudable. She plumbs to the depths of this experience without ever relying on familiar turns in the form – she never plays to the audience’s pity, doesn’t over-sentimentalize her relationship with her father, and fills the track with a great mix of the personal and general. Instead, she is intent on relaying the reality of this experience with clear, startlingly direct language that never cheats the listener and tries to gaze into the face of this grievous change to her life without ever blinking or flinching. Her attempt is wholly successful and quite admirable. 

Anyone who has lost a loved parent will understand the pain in this single. “You and Me Today” is a song that sees the connection between father and daughter as unalterable, even by the grave, and while the song isn’t a catalog of platitudes for the deceased, it is a remarkable tribute to the enduring power that certain figures hold over our hearts and lives. As a preview of her forthcoming album, Kelly McGrath couldn’t have re-introduced herself to the music world in a better way.  

David Shouse

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