Don’t misjudge Kris McKay just because the first few cuts on her debut album have melodic hooks that sound ready-made for radio. Don’t misjudge her, either, because she has a sentimental taste for songs with such lines as ”Don’t ask the stars above/ Because they’ve never been in love.” (That’s from a John Hiatt weeper called ”Any Single Solitary Heart.”)
The lovely surprise here is that McKay is much more than just another pop singer. She’ll throw her head back and shout full-blooded soul, complete with tasty ’60s-style horns; she’ll cut her voice back to a bluesy moan; her best moments in a classic Billie Holiday item, ”Don’t Explain,” sound as if she were whispering in your ear.
And after all that pop, soul, and blues, who would have thought the one song McKay wrote herself would be an understated blend of country, Paul Simon’s Graceland, and New Age — or that it easily would rank as the most sophisticated music on the album, and the most effective? McKay may later learn to vary the flavor and mood of her voice as much as she varies its weight. But What Love Endures is a refreshing debut.