Since Maria McKee left Lone Justice, and the
massive fame she was going to gather as some restless hybrid of Dolly and Patti Smith, she has had a brilliant but spotty career, and spun more and more towards Lillith Fair MOR than someone of her
gifts should have allowed.
But You Gotta Sin to Get Saved is a hidden classic, a ten song rumination on love growed up, but still possessing all the sweet adolescent joy and promise that we tend to dismiss as we get closer to our AARP card days.
Ranging from country-tinged R n B to back-porch laments to some serious, house-rocking, honky-tonk torch songs, McKee's voice, always a fine instrument, is used here for maximum effect. No wasted notes, she makes every word come to life. And if once or twice that album lapses into the kind of overwrought diva fodder that can be her downfall, those moments work as overall color rather than singular moments.
Two Van Morrison covers, handily delivered, and a handful of brilliant originals. The lyrics are the best of her career, active and artfully reflective. "My Girlhood Among the Outlaws" and "Why Wasn't I more Grateful (When Life Was Sweet)" are particular favorites. In less skillful hands, the former could have come off as the kind of cheap, "isn't my vagina sacred" crap that gets spewed by self-conscious gender warriors, and the latter is the sound of a real woman proclaiming the Gospel of Real Life.
And when she opens the album with the joyful "I'm Gonna Soothe You", by purring "Got a thing for you, baby..."?
It’s over, man. There will be no more resistance. May as well listen.