Stay-at-home-mom scores as a singer/songwriter -- Lori McKenna tells us why her re-released album ''Bittertown'' didn't make it on ''Oprah''

Many reviews of Faith Hill’s latest CD, Fireflies, agree that the three best tracks (”Stealing Kisses,” ”If You Ask,” and the title cut) came from one obscure songwriter, Lori McKenna. When Oprah Winfrey featured the Massachusetts mother of five on her Oct. 3 show, she emphasized the average-mom-saved-by-Faith angle but not that the 36-year-old folkie has released four acclaimed independent albums. (Heck, her name has even been an answer in the New York Times crossword puzzle…twice.) Hill’s label, Warner Bros. Nashville, just signed McKenna and rereleased 2004’s sweetly terrific Bittertown.

Oprah must have said ”stay-at-home mom” a dozen times. But your recording career went unmentioned.

I didn’t know that was the angle they were going with. Vance Gilbert, a nationally known folksinger, left me a message saying he was gonna start calling himself a ”stay-at-home dad,” even though he doesn’t have kids, because it seemed like a good marketing strategy. [Laughs] But it didn’t bother me, because I do consider myself a stay-at-home mom…who has a great career. And I’m a big Oprah fan. She should be president.

Bittertown recalls Springsteen’s darker, small-town stuff. Oprah viewers might buy it and think, Wow, this is downbeat.

The thought of somebody hearing ”Fireflies” and buying Bittertown and being disappointed ran across my thought process. I’ve had reviews where people liked the concert but don’t get me, because in between songs I’m so freakin’ happy, and then the songs aren’t. But all my songs have some light. ”Stealing Kisses” is the darker side of motherhood. But every mom I’ve met has experienced this feeling of sheer loneliness among children.

Including Faith?

I’m psyched that she got it. One of the first things she said to me was ”I want to know what you have for breakfast!” I think she’s so interested in other moms because we all have these feelings that maybe don’t make sense or don’t seem right. I was surprised anybody wanted to cover that song. It’s a ballsy move for her.