The last time Arlo McKinley released a record, the darn thing hauled off and won Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year. All the more reason to not temper excitement that he’s just announced his second album on John Prine’s Oh Boy Records. Another reason is the announcement comes with the release of a new song “Stealing Dark from the Night Sky” (listen below).
On July 15th, the Cincinnati, Ohio songwriter will release This Mess We’re In. And even though the title and artwork hit you as pretty dour, and it comes from a period in McKinley’s life where he lost his mother and best friend, and saw others in his life succumb to addiction, it’s an album about overcoming such things as opposed to reveling in the misery of them.
“I’m private with a lot of things I go through, but in my songs, I’m honest about everything. So I started to write as a way of getting stuff out,” McKinley says. “To me, ‘This Mess We’re In’ is a growth record. I was navigating through a pretty bad time, but also there was the realization that it’s time to really change. My last album was me figuring out whether to stay or go from a very confused spot in my life. This one is trying to better myself—as a musician, as a human being, as a friend.”
Not fixing what wasn’t broke, Arlo MicKinley worked with producer Matt Ross-Spang at the Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis for the new album, similar to MicKinley’s award-winning last record, Die Midwestern. Others involved in the project include Will Sexton on guitar, Ken Coomer on drums, and Rick Steff on keyboards. The album is also embellished with some strings arrangements in spots—something new for McKinley.
Arlo was the last artist John Prine signed to his Oh Boy Records label before he passed away in 2020. Prine saw McKinley perform at Nashville’s The High Watt, and was impressed with his songwriting. Previously releasing a self-titled record with The Lonesome Sound in 2014, the John Prine endorsement put Arlo McKinley on the national radar, but it was McKinley’s follow through that put him on the short list of premier songwriters of our time.
“I hope listeners can identify with the things they’re too ashamed to talk about or feel,” Arlo McKinley says about the objective of the album. “There’s such a stigma that goes along with things like addiction and mental health. I just want them to know that I go through all of that too.”
This Mess We’re In is now available for pre-order.
- I Don’t Mind
- City Lights
- Back Home
- Stealing Dark From the Night Sky
- To Die For
- Dancing Days
- This Mess We’re In
- I Wish I
- Where You Want Me
- Here’s to the Dying