The honesty and authenticity that is immediately visible when listening to Arlo McKinley songs stems from the fact that the Cincinnati-based folk-rock songwriter is well aware of the ups and downs of life.
Are the songs an honest testimony to his inner thoughts and as reflective pieces they are such that people around the world would have little trouble finding a familiar reflection of events in their own lives.
That fact is exemplified on the album ‘This Mess We’re In’, which showcases McKinley as one of the most important songwriters on the contemporary folk-folk scene.
The sublime “I Don’t Mind” comforts the listener with its calm acoustic introduction and McKinley’s vocal tone is equally inviting and enticing due to its inherent warmth.
When the accompaniment extends it is in an uncontrolled and sparse manner, moving things along with a gentle violin and relaxed percussive beat.
Fans of Bob Dylan and Chris Stapleton will undoubtedly love this album, as will any discerning music enthusiast.
For the recording, McKinley was helmed by some formidable musicians including Dave Smith (bass), Ken Coomer (drums), Rick Steff (Wurlitzer), Matt-Ross-Spang (acoustic guitar), Will Sexton (electric guitar), Jesse Munson (fiddle) was included. ), and Reba Russell (backing vocals).
McKinley himself handled acoustic guitar and vocals throughout. The playing on the album is impeccable and what really stands out is that the accompaniment on each song is simple and enhances the inherent qualities of each track.
‘City Lights’ is a lovable, mid-tempo country rocker with subtle hints of the country classic era between the late 50s and ’70s.
If Merle Haggard and the Eagles were an ally, it might have looked something like this. It is an excellent track and the loneliness of the vocals gives the song a mesmerizing quality.
McKinley takes a more traditional country-folk route on ‘Back Home’ which further emphasizes what a fine songwriter he is. The bass has a great, warm tone, something common throughout the album, but the lower end sounds particularly dominant on this particular track.
Lyrically, McKinley offers images that many people can relate to. The analysis of the loss of big city life applies to urban centers on every continent: ‘This city is a symphony, that never seems to matter / I’ve tasted every sin, spit them out, and I tried again.’
But then again, maybe we are all victims of our own successes and failures: ‘I hold myself accountable’
For everything I’ve done, the constant heat beneath my feet, I think is a glimpse of what’s to come. ,
The intriguing title, ‘Stealing Dark from the Night Sky’, is another contemplative song, where one gets the impression that the artist has looked deep inside himself to offer an honest expression of love. Rhythmically, the song is set at a mid-tempo tempo. The album is dedicated to McKinley’s late mother, Sharon Diane Carr, and her accompanying ‘The Life Live and Memories Made’, and this fact perfectly puts the authentic and honest feel of the songs into perspective.
‘To Die For’ is one of the most rock songs on the album, however, it is still set to a mid-tempo beat. While McKinley has an original sound overall, there is a familiarity to his songs that makes them extremely listenable and rather memorable.
‘Dance Day’ is a ballad and is as honest as you’ll be hearing all year long. One aspect of McKinley’s songs that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries is that there is nothing fanciful about them; This is songwriting at its best.
The love song vibes reflected on the album’s title track, ‘This Mess We’re In’ are very evident. This is an incredible number and deserves its place at the top of the table in terms of being a title track.
‘Rushinthemug’, in contrast, takes things on a slightly more angry path and signals to the listener that there may be some remorse: ‘I fear death I will always be who I have always been, I thought. Tha now, that I would get used to it.’
‘I Wish I’ has a lazy, dreamlike quality to it that offers something different than before. There are several standout tracks on the album and the consistently high level of songwriting throughout is astonishing.
‘Where You Want Me’ has a great bass line and if there was such a thing as ‘waltz-blues’ this track would have fit in perfectly. The fiddle and general accompaniment is superb and the song takes the whole album closer to ‘Here is to the Dying’ which is a reflective song on the path of life. McKinley embraced various stylistic influences in his writing and the result is an album that fans of many different genres will find very appealing.