La Vita Nuova
Limited edition white gatefold 2xLP, ‘bookback’ CD & gatefold black 2xLP
“All of my age and wisdom held the challenge of this reverie…”
Ardent, anglophilic, anachronistic, luddite/maximalist and baroque, ‘La Vita Nuova’ was written as an elegy to desire. Upon its completion it became a conjuring. “I have since been reaping this manifestation. Every day is an adventure of the heart. It takes courage to follow, but sometimes art will show us the path to life”
Candid and passionate, Maria McKee has quite simply, had a beatific awakening and in a crescendo of prose, her new album ‘La Vita Nuova’ unlocks this story, sketching out a momentous and transformative time in her life that started decades ago when she sang in her living room by the fire with her older brother, the late, great musical innovator Bryan MacLean, co-founder, (along with Arthur Lee), of the seminal LA band LOVE. Along the way she retooled punk and country as the lead singer of pioneering Americana band Lone Justice, released a string of evocative and eclectic solo records, wrote chart topping hits and inspired the devotion of a loyal cultish fan base before seemingly disappearing…
It’s been thirteen years since her last studio album ‘Late December’ which was released in 2007. During that time McKee has been working alongside her husband auteur, Jim Akin, co-producing, scoring and working as an ensemble cast member in his critically lauded independent films.
“After decades of numbing to routine, out of nowhere, a heart-breaking epiphany awoke me to a shock of grief. I was at a mid-point in life, looking at death approaching. My Mother had begun her steady decline into the shadowlands of advanced dementia. I began to process not having had a child and my fanatic heart had grown fallow in a marriage that had become platonic. I was cracked wide open. I began to look back with longing at desire, tenderness, passion, my own youth, the child I never had. It was agonizing but the songs started to rush in like a flood. It was the first time that this had happened since 1995 when I wrote Life is Sweet. I must have written close to forty songs for La Vita Nuova all within a period of about six months. Writing those songs saved my life”.
‘La Vita Nuova’ is an homage to Dante’s opus on unrequited love. Though the unconscious impetus for making this album was to process the shock of one of McKee’s most prodigious personal challenges thus far, the dissolution and reinvention of her marriage, the songs are progressive and lyrically dense. The production is orchestral and operatic and takes it cues from McKee’s lexicon of icons – John Cale, Scott Walker and David Bowie. And so, it is a conversation that demands a level of deep concentration. One may need to listen more than once to connect with the confessional narrative that is held in subtext and to understand that within the lines of prose the “muse”, or “Beatrice” of the album is also a heart-breaking phantom of McKee’s younger, idealistic self. And a metaphor for youth in general. As reflected in the haunting, cascading melodic strains of the Joni Mitchell hinted “I Should Have Looked Away” and the poignant, nostalgic wistfulness of lead track “Effigy of Salt”.
Upon completion of the album, McKee came out as Queer. She now identifies as a ‘pansexual, polyamorous, gender fluid dyke.’
“My identity may change as my Queer journey unfolds but what will not change is my advocacy and commitment to my community, my family. As a woman bereft of birth children, I have been made a mother many times over since coming out. It has given my life purpose”.
McKee has established a funding platform for Trans Facial Feminization Surgery, See Me Safe FFS Fund, which she hopes to eventually launch as a non-profit.
McKee has also since moved to London. The album seems to herald this move as there are nods to Sandy Denny, Kate Bush and English composers and poets McKee admires such as Ralph Vaughn Williams, Keats and Swinburne whose work she had immersed herself in while writing the album. McKee’s professed Spiritual Father, William Blake is name checked on the track ‘Right Down To The Heart Of London’, a love letter to the psychogeography of McKee’s expatriate home.
‘Ceann Bró’ was inspired by the astral projected liaisons between William Butler Yeats and Maud Gonne on the westernmost point of Ireland as McKee is an initiate of an occult lodge in the tradition of Yeats’ and Gonne’s The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn. The lyrics in ‘Page Of Cups’ flirt with the “unexpected, surprising muse” figure in the minor Tarot arcana. The track recalls ‘Forever Changes’-era Love as does ‘I Just Want To Know That You’re Alright’. Both are heavily influenced by brother Bryan MacLean.
“Bryan still communicates with me and I think that I probably should have given him songwriting credit on the album” (Laughs) “I feel he was very much involved in the making of this record. My dead are many and they are never very far, as I am, and always have been a ‘channel’”
It would be easy to believe that ‘La Vita Nuova’ indeed could have been “channelled” as McKee eludes to the songs descending “like manna from the throne” in the lyrics for ‘Courage’. Thenineteen-piece orchestral arrangements were composed and arranged by McKee who has had no formal classical training and doesn’t read a note of music. But really that is the nature of creative catharsis which generally operates with a will of its own.
“So many of the magical experiences of the last several years have been the result of faith and unconscious intuition. I have followed the guidance and implemented the tasks by setting the intention and doing the work, often not fully understanding in my conscious mind just what those intentions were. La Vita Nuova was one of those intentions. My higher consciousness was drawing a map to guide me out and onto the path of new life and I wasn’t aware of it until the work was completed and I began to follow. It has been miraculous”.
1. Effigy Of Salt
2. Page Of Cups
3. Let Me Forget
4. I Should Have Looked Away
5. Right Down To The Heart Of London
6. La Vita Nuova
7. Little Beast
9. Ceann Bró
10. The Last Boy
11. I Never Asked
12. I Just Wanted To Know That You’re Alright
14. However Worn
‘La Vita Nuova’ will be availble on limited edition white gatefold double LP, ‘bookback CD’ & gatefold black double LP
Pre-order link: https://Afar.lnk.to/