Kelly McGrath’s fourth release, on the basis of this track “You and Me Today”, promises to be the defining release of her already notable career thanks to its deft combination of accessible musical sophistication, well written and plain spoken lyrical content, and vocal excellence that never has to bellow its presence but, instead, insinuates itself into the listener’s consciousness one line at a time and leaves you spellbound by the track’s conclusion. Her last hit single, “One Foot In Front of the Other” from her third album Heartstrings, made a resounding commercial impact but, despite its thorny subject matter, “You and Me Today” promises to make a similar deep impact on her audience and winning over countless new fans. This is pulled from a profoundly personal place in McGrath’s heart as the song chronicles her response to the ongoing grief of losing her father to death. She never backs away from the harsh ultimate truth of the situation and, in the end, redeems her pain with brilliant cathartic power.
The song comes together slowly. The mid-tempo build kicks off with McGrath’s voice seconded by compact and tightly wound acoustic guitar. The duo establish a strong melody, both vocally and instrumentally, before other instruments enter the picture. Instruments never land heavy in this track and, instead, cleanly segue into the song with all of the artfulness and good sense one expects from such polished performers. The guitar work is exemplary throughout and recorded in such a way that listeners can detect the actual impact of the pick striking against the strings and the rhythm section work, particularly the drumming, lends an air of gravitas and drama to the proceedings that it might otherwise lack. It anchors the song and provides a platform from which the top line melodies can weave their magic.
McGrath’s vocals are alone worth the price of purchase. If this were an acapella performance, listeners would still be compelled to sit up and take notice thanks to the exemplary phrasing and powerful emotional peaks that she singlehandedly sustains. She follows the arrangement carefully but with a lively imagination – there’s evidence, time and time again, that McGrath is particularly adept at positioning her voice against musical arrangements as a sympathetic counterpoint to the music’s melodic direction. The instincts for this sort of thing are not something you learn. Singers may hone the skill to a razor sharp edge, but just like a talent for timekeeping, you are ultimately either born with it or simply don’t possess it at all.
“You and Me Today” is a cut above the typical modern country/Americana track. This is far from some token take on the finality of death and the following grief; instead, this is as earnest an exploration of the terrible toll it takes on the human spirit as you are ever likely to hear. Kelly McGrath is a true artist and this first single from the forthcoming fourth album is as fine as a track you will hear this year.