Lori McKenna’s emotional release

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / January 25, 2011

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Any song that evokes laughter, tears, and soul-searching can be considered a success. Lori McKenna has been successful for a long time, but her latest release, “Lorraine,’’ out today, is a real high-water mark for the Stoughton singer-songwriter, featuring 13 perfectly crafted gems of observational insight.

The album takes its name from McKenna’s own, and that of her mother. Examining both her own life, the legacy of her mom — who died when McKenna was a child — and the vagaries of all types of relationships, McKenna comes to insightful conclusions and churns up even more questions.

Musically, vocally, and lyrically, each tune tells a story and McKenna is in fine form moving from flinty defiance to tremulous sorrow. From the wistful piano ballad “If He Tried’’ (about not needing our significant others to hang the moon but wishing they’d occasionally make the effort) to the sweet rocker “You Get a Love Song’’ (about the joys and heartaches of the mundane), McKenna drills down to a kind of emotional essence.

On the title track, the long-married mother of five peppers the lyrics with details about her family, friends, and personal life and then sings of these anecdotes, “that don’t mean a thing to you but it does to me.’’ But the beauty of her writing — the way she gets at the universal through the intimately specific — is that it means much more to her listeners than she could ever know.