Kelly McGrath – You and Me Today
The first single from Kelly McGrath’s fourth release, “You and Me Today”, arguably marks the zenith of this young performer’s career. The single is top shelf Americana with a soft commercial edge thanks to the modern production and the song’s numerous melodic attributes, but its merits run deeper. “You and Me Today” is also fearlessly mature and examines one of the most shattering and pivotal moments in a person’s life – the death of a parent and all the attending feelings of regret. McGrath examines this theme with a singing voice with enough power to blow out your speakers while also possessing the ability to lull listeners to sleep or make them weepy without ever cheaply pandering to the audience’s expectations or emotional needs. It’s further laudable that, despite such weighty subject matter, McGrath shows greater artistry by condensing this experience down to a song barely clocking in at over three minutes. There’s no self-indulgence here.
It’s clear from the outset that she intends on facing down the song’s reality and will not back away from it. The song opens with some tasteful acoustic guitar and McGrath’s emotive vocals weaving in and around the notes. The guitar playing throughout the song is superbly recorded and balanced well against her voice and other instruments. The drums come in shortly after the opening, but even this is finessed with a understated cymbal crash before the rhythm section comes in full. This steadily mounting tension is remarkably patient for such a brief track, but it is obvious that the singer and musicians alike are attempting to create a mood and they succeed admirably. The lyrics are clear, well-phrased, and often quite eloquent. There’s no need for a lyricist to inflate this sort of experience, the gravity of it speaks for itself, and McGrath concentrates on striking the right tone without tipping the scales into melodrama.
The chorus is particularly strong and McGrath’s voice takes full flight with it. Her singing, from the first time to last, is nothing short of remarkable. Like the lyrics, her vocal has to straddle a thin line between communicating the enormity of this event while never descending into soap opera driven theatrics. She has quite a skill for positioning her voice in counterpoint with the arrangement – she fills the spaces the music does not and vice versa in a perfectly timed sonic dance. She shows a wide emotional range as well that hits listeners in all of the right places. It’s impressive to hear a singer tackle such painful autobiographical material with raw fearlessness.
This single and the album it occupies a place on likely represent the peak of McGrath’s career to this point. If the rest of the new release proves as brave and singular as this, she will be hard pressed to better it, but there’s every indication that she can. There are few performers and writers working in the Americana field with this sort of stunning confluence of talent. “You and Me Today” has emotional thunder and melody galore for McGrath’s audience.