Megan Moroney will be at The Long Road this year, buffeted by the success of her song Tennessee Orange. The love song has been the breakout smash from the girl from Georgia whose musical guru was Kristian Bush of Sugarland, although she also names Kacey Musgraves as a key influence.
Bush has produced this album, seeing kinship in Megan’s love of hooks and smart lyrics. The opening track I’m Not Pretty (‘I’m not cool, I’m just one of those girls that peaked in high school’) is brilliant in every respect, reminding me of Kacey’s songs thanks to its wry lyric and spacious production. I replayed it immediately.
Megan is certainly lucky to get radio play, given the long-known skew towards male voices in songs that get played in between ‘jock talk’ and Chrysler commercials on country radio. It’s tempting to say, with Carly Pearce and Lainey Wilson doing well at radio, that we’re due to get a third A-list female singer to rival/replace Carrie and free agent Miranda Lambert, who like Reba before them are at risk of ageing out of radio. This does not count for men, as Keith Urban’s career shows. So it goes.
Megan’s voice is a less boisterous Priscilla Block or more sarcastic Kelsea Ballerini, sometimes with the rasp of Sheryl Crow. More than anyone, the voice reminds me of Laci Kaye Booth, whose excellent album couldn’t stop her being dropped by Big Machine.
There’s a honky-tonk feel to Lucky, which needs a line-dance to go with its punchline: ‘tonight you’re lucky I’m drinkin’. A sweet song has Megan trotting around the states before declaring she’s a Georgia Girl who ‘don’t give a damn’ when guys say they’ll change their ways. Sleep On My Side namedrops John Prine, which is tremendously impressive for a mainstream country album. It has a kicker in the chorus that I’m not going to spoil, but it’s more than just an ‘I’m kinda this and you’re kinda that’ song. Despite its four cycled chords, there’s double bass, pedal steel and a piano glissando during the final chorus. Again, it was too good not to repeat at once.
Kansas Anymore was written with three heavyweights: Luke Laird, Rodney Clawson and mother hen of country songwriters Lori McKenna. Like Tennessee Orange it’s gentle and gorgeous, with some dobro high up in the mix, but tells the opposite tale: ‘Damn we were happy, somewhere we took a wrong right turn’. Mustang or Me picks up that song’s mood as Megan sobs at the end of a relationship. I actually went ‘Ooooh!’ when the kicker came: ‘Who’s gonna break down first?’ The song was written with the impressive Mackenzie Carpenter, who is signed to Valory Music and is definitely one to watch in the next few years.
Jessie Jo Dillon was in the room for Girl In The Mirror, the inevitable song for the target demographic that every act of Megan’s type seems to have, but it’ll bring them comfort all the same. Another On The Way orders the listener, or perhaps the narrator herself, to ‘keep your head up’ and move on while being strong. God Plays a Gibson is a song full of rural cliches wrapped around the Lord, who surely ‘spends his off-days up there fishin’…seems like my kinda guy’.
Traitor Joe (great title) is a toe-tapper which tells Joe that his current flame is ‘a player, a wolf in sheep’s clothes’. It’s odd to hear a country song from the perspective of a friend outside of a love triangle. Megan also imagines a conversation with June Carter on Why Johnny (‘What made you wanna make it work?’), which is at least a new spin on the clichéd references to the golden country couple. Sad Songs For Sad People is the closing track, whose title sounds like a Zach Bryan album title but it’s a misnomer because Megan ‘wrote this love song for you’.
This is a really good set of songs that Music City should get behind. Mega will gain hundreds of new fans when she comes to England, and I have a feeling it’s a trial run for a return visit in March 2024.