McKee peddles lovely music on ‘Dreams’

Jason LeRoy

Credit: Jason LeRoy

Maria McKee is perhaps the only element of Pulp Fiction that can be described as “pretty.” Uma Thurman comes close, but then she snorts heroin and starts spitting up unpleasant fluids.

McKee is best known for her stunning, heartbreaking rendition of “If Love Is A Red Dress (Hang Me In Rags),” which plays in the film just before Ving Rhames is anally raped — and can be heard in a somewhat nicer context on the film’s best-selling soundtrack.

McKee has not exactly been prolific over the years, taking a seven-year hiatus between Life is Sweet (1996) and High Dive (2003). Thus, McKee fans are rejoicing that the enigmatic diva has released yet another collection of new material, Peddlin’ Dreams (Eleven Thirty Records), a mere two years after her last LP.

McKee and Co. spent the majority of her seven-year hiatus working on High Dive, and the product noticeably suffered from over-planning and over-production. Fortunately, Peddlin’ Dreams was a much more carefree collaboration, with McKee and producer/husband Jim Akin following their instincts and recording whatever and however they damn well felt like.

Consequently, the resulting LP is genuine if a bit unfocused. McKee is at her very best when performing stricken, soulful ballads in the vein of “If Love Is A Red Dress;” highlight tracks include “Sullen Soul,” “Turn Away,” and the dynamic title track.

The album falters whenever McKee and Akin attempt to take things into more upbeat territory, such as the album’s opener, “A Season Of The Fair,” and on tracks like, “People in the Way” and “The Horse Life.”

All in all, Peddlin’ Dreams is one of McKee’s most consistently fine solo releases regardless of its shortcomings. Fans of Patty Griffin and Neko Case should acquaint themselves with McKee immediately.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jason C. LeRoy at [email protected].