“I just wanna leave my name,” Arlo McKinley sings on “Dancing Days,” one of many standout songs from his stellar new album, “This Mess We’re In.”
“Now I know nothing is forever and no one leaves as perfect as they came.”
The rising Cincinnati, Ohio singer-songwriter’s third album was released in July on Oh Boy Records, his second for the independent label founded by late folk legend John Prine – McKinley was the latest artist to be signed to the label by Prine himself, before his death in 2020.
The album follows McKinley’s second album of 2020, “Die Midwestern”, his debut for Oh Boy Records.
One of the best and most self-assured Americana albums released this year, “This Mess We’re In” is a ruthlessly honest masterpiece that showcases McKinley’s beautiful songs and poignant lyrics. while rewarding repeat listeners.
Produced by Matt Ross-Spang (Margo Price, Jason Isbell) and recorded at Memphis’ famed Sam Phillips recording facility, the album finds McKinley backed by a top-notch band that includes drummer Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) , pianist Rick Steff (Lucero , Cat Power), guitarist Will Sexton and violinist Jessie Munson in addition to Ross-Spang on guitars.
McKinley and his band perform Sept. 17 at famed Burlington nightclub, Nectar’s — now under new ownership — in support of the album.
McKinley’s winning sound has earned him comparisons with such notable artists as Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Tyler Childers, the latter two with whom McKinley shared the stage as an opening act.
Like Simpson, McKinley, 42, got his start as a professional musician late, working at a record store in his 20s and 30s while dabbling in songwriting. He began writing songs in earnest while working a dead-end job, delivering tuxedos from Cincinnati to Detroit, releasing his debut album, “Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound,” in 2014 at age 35.
“This Mess We’re In” follows a tough time in McKinley’s life – the COVID pandemic notwithstanding. Prior to the release of “Die Midwestern”, McKinley’s mother died. Then one of his best friends died soon after. And then he lost two more friends to drug addiction.
“I’m a little private with a lot of things that I go through, but in my songs I’m honest about everything,” says McKinley, a soft-spoken introvert who talks openly about his past addictions to alcohol and drugs. drugs, in press materials.
“I was sailing through a pretty bad time, but I also realized it was time to really change, to find a better way of life,” he adds. “This one is trying to make me better – as a musician, as a human being, as a friend.”
“McKinley’s latest album for Oh Boy Records cements his place as one of country and America’s most exciting new voices,” Billboard said, while The Boot said the album provides “proof that Arlo McKinley is a talent that’s here for the long haul.” ”
“It’s not hard to hear what John Prine saw in Arlo McKinley,” said Brooklyn Vegan. “His songs have an instantly classic, timeless feel, like you’ve known them your whole life, even when you first hear them.”