I’ve loved Maria McKee’s music since she was with Lone Justice back in the 80s. After two albums with that band, she has carved out an unpredictable career with a canon of truly original, creative albums. When Maria McKee comes out with something new, you never know what to expect.
After her alt-country flavored self titled debut in 1989, a duet with Dwight Yoakam, and an appearance on the soundtrack to the film Days Of Thunder (which yielded a huge UK hit in “Show Me Heaven), Maria McKee emerged with her masterpiece, 1993’s You Gotta Sin To Get Saved.
Rather than sticking with the country-ish feel of her debut, YGSTGS takes a bit of a different path, while still managing to present an old-school vibe. It’s fresh, yet it feels classic all at the same time. As far as the songs go, the originals blend seamlessly in with covers of tunes by artists like Van Morrison and Dusty Springfield. The band is comfortable and loose, and McKee is in fine vocal form here.
On top of everything else, the songs are just great! In the first track, “I’m Gonna Soothe You,” a woman offers to comfort the jilted boyfriend of her own best friend. “My Girlhood Among The Outlaws” tells the story of her time with Lone Justice. In “Only Once,” another woman looks back at the trails of lovers she left behind, only to regret the one true love she let get away. The closing title track is a fun shuffle, in which yet another woman assures her man that she’ll settle down with him as soon as she’s ready to settle down.
McKee selected her cover songs expertly as well. A pair of Van Morrison covers are highlights; “My Lonely Sad Eyes” matched Morrison’s sound and style well, while “The Way Young Lovers Do,” far and away the finest moment on the record, allows McKee to really let loose and sing with the full force of her voice.
Maria McKee has come out with more incredible music since then, and each album is completely different from the last. But nothing has reached the level that You Gotta Sin To Get Saved does. It’s a truly underrated gem.