In the right hands, a set of songs primarily concerned with heartbreak can end up sounding downright triumphant. On Take My Hand, out June 24 on Over the Well Records, that is just what Corinne McKnight does, armed with pithy songwriting, a powerful voice, and unfettered production that lets the music shine through. It is tempting to say that Take My Hand cashes the check McKnight wrote on her 2012 release Surprised Me, but McKnight just seems to keep getting better. And, while still a teenager, she may well be just warming up.
Despite her youth, McKnight is already a veteran of the music-making and performance circuit. Trained in piano, guitar, and voice throughout her childhood, McKnight began performing when she was eight. After continuing to grow via musical theater and being in a few bands, McKnight made her first trip to Nashville, where she worked with songwriters including major TV network composer David Harper, Karen Staley (Faith Hill, Leann Rimes), and CJ Watson and Marty Brown (Tracy Bird). Later, she fronted the Madison, WI-based band Modern Mod to great critical and fan praise before deciding she wanted to pursue a solo career.
And she has pursued it something fierce. Since releasing Surprised Me, McKnight has worked hard to establish herself as a songwriter in addition to a vocalist, musician, and performer. On Take My Hand, McKnight delivers lyrics that are down-to-earth while also tugging at some of the most universal human experiences related to love. “Good thing it ended, now I know the chances I’ll take. Next time it won’t be too late cause you were my best mistake,” McKnight sings. But even the best songwriters need inspired delivery and music, and McKnight nails that too, knowing when to play a delicate arpeggio and when to break out full-throttle chord progressions.
The hook-laden opener “It All Starts With Goodbye” celebrates the newfound freedom in being single. “Gonna have a hell of a time,” McKnight sings. “Hangin On” may be further proof of McKnight’s progression as a songwriter, but it’s even more evidence of McKnight’s impressive vocal abilities. Her bittersweet twang flawlessly verbs the song’s story of a lover kept in wait. In “Loves Me Not,” McKnight reminisces on the better days of a romance gone awry. “We were small town celebrities / that was you and me,” she sings in the opening verse. The song chronicles her emotions as she progresses through the betrayal, and when she sings about her denial breaking, the feeling is palpable and powerful. “Wrong,” a pop-inflected track, shows that McKnight can also write a hopeful song about love. “I know in my heart that we belong / Things fall apart to make us strong / So please take my hand and let me prove you wrong,” goes the chorus. The stomping, hand-clapping “Don’t Call It Love” pounds with sassy adrenaline.
Though the songs on Take My Hand all deal with big feelings, they’re easy to listen to. Genuine, unpretentious, this album will make a lingering impression. Just like Corinne McKnight.