Lori McKenna @ Library of Congress Saturday

I’d previously heard of folk singer/songwriter Lori McKenna, but I had never had actually listened to her, even though I had meant to. So when I got an advance copy of her new album Lorraine (1/25/2011 release) the other day, I immediately pressed play, and I’m very glad I did.

It’s bare, achingly lovely folk-country-think a combination of early Living With Ghosts-era Patty Griffin and Mary Chapin Carpenter. McKenna’s lonesome sound is enriched by the harmonies added by a smattering of various male vocalists (including producer Barry Dean) throughout. The melodies are strong and arrangements are sparsely elegant, though it sometimes takes a second listen in order to focus all of one’s attention on the lyrics.

While McKenna doesn’t necessarily break new lyrical ground on Lorraine (which happens to be her given name), the subject matter that she does cover is done well. It’s an intimate set of songs that tell of small towns, love, growing up and overcoming loss, with tracks ranging from the gorgeous ballad “The Most,” to the intensity of “You Get A Love Song.”

Lori McKenna will be performing at the Library of Congress this Saturday night December 4th, at 8:00 with the current top ten country artist Little Big Town. Tickets are “free,” but since they must be purchased from Ticketmaster, there’s of course a nominal service charge with each ticket order. There is a limit of 2 tickets per person.