Maria Mckee, Amsterdam, Paradiso


Performing in the Netherlands for the first time since 1996, Maria McKee seemed surprised so many had come out to see her.

But the Paradiso staff had made their main room more intimate, putting tables and large plants down on the floor and moving the soundstage up a good way towards the stage. It was nowhere near sold out.

She played all my favourites, even the oldies: Breathe, Dixie Storms, Shelter, Wheels… fabulous to hear them all again, as well as tracks off her new album ‘Peddlin’ Dreams’. Unpredictable and still slightly mad, she moves between folk rock chick, Carnivàle extra and Piaf-like little diva — talking to the audience about her husband Jim (on bass), listening to their comments (‘Who was singing along? I heard you! It was good.’), but never really making eye-contact. Eyes either closed or spread wide open, she lives the world she creates within herself. She even jokes about being a bit of a spacer.

Maria Mckee

I’ve never heard her play the same song the same way twice and it seemed she was adlibbing to Wheels, lyrically as well as musically. Passionate and moody, she complained about the heat and muttered ‘and now I have to sing that song as well’ under her breath before delivering a moving ‘Worry Birds’.

Ten years on (‘That like… a whole decade,’ she commented) Maria McKee is still absolutely barking stars.

Setlist: You Are The Light, I Can’t Make It Alone, Am I The Only One, Peddlin’ Dreams, High Dive, Wheels, The Horse Life, Shelter, Turn Away, Sullen Soul, Worry Birds, If Love Is A Red Dress, Dixie Storms, Barstool Blues, People in the Way, In Your Constellation, Everyone’s Got A Story, Breathe, Life Is Sweet.

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Maria McKee – Peddlin’ Dreams

peddlindreams.jpg Here’s a tip for people who perhaps got into U2 during the Joshua Tree tour and dug that scene that involved The BoDeans, Maria McKee, Robbie Robertson and the Dalton Brothers. If you wondered what happened to Maria and why you haven’t heard from her recently: she isn’t signed to a major and has been putting our albums on her own label for the last couple of years.

Amazingly, this means she’s putting out MORE material than before. Most notably, 2003’s superbly bombastic – and yes, I mean that in a good way – High Dive. (If you were expecting more of that… you’re out of luck.)

Last year, she released Live in Hamburg CD, and now she’s back with a new studio album, Peddlin’ Dreams. Fans of her ‘old’ sound (the Lone Justice years and her eponymous debut album) should be quite happy with it.

On Peddlin’ Dreams Maria left the reigns firmly in her husband Jim Akin’s hands. She wasn’t involved in production, just showed up in their home studio whenever Akin thought the mood was right for a particular song.

Which means we get 12 more or less spontaneously recorded tunes showcasing Maria’s still beautiful voice. Folksy, ‘country rock’ type songs full of yearning and Americana with delightful, unexpected melodic twists and heartfelt vocals.

My only problem with the album is that maybe Maria sounds a little too too comfortable on some of the songs, not as hungry and driven as on her other albums. Could be a side effect of recording in the home setting?

But then there’s the joy of the last song on the disc, ‘(You don’t know) How Glad I Am,’ which evokes 60’s chansons, Piaf and Dusty Springfield and is reminiscent of classic McKee songs like Panic Beach. And though there’s no ‘Wheels’, or ‘Breathe’ and this may not be the ‘one’ Maria Mckee album you should own, Peddlin’ Dreams is a very welcome addition to my collection at least and more proof that Maria’s one of those what critics tend to call ‘criminally underestimated’ artists.

One more note of praise: the CD booklet, the perfect example of how an independently released album doesn’t have to look like arse.

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