They say love conquers all, and in the case of Johnny Cash and June Carter it has certainly conquered their narrative. No matter that they met whilst married to other people, or the addictions and affairs they battled through; all people really remember about their love is how deeply they felt it for each other.
That’s not good enough for Megan Moroney, though, whose ability to ask the simplest of questions, one that ignites fear in both parents and politicians alike, is what propels her debut album, Lucky, to star-making. The question? ‘Why?’
That’s what she asks June Carter on Why Johnny, singing “I wanna hear it from the start, how many times did he break your heart, from what I’m reading, why didn’t you leave him?” Her propensity for simply not letting things lie, all wrapped-up in that laid-back rasp of her voice, carries through an album that is one of the best releases of the year so far.
It’s there on breakout hit ‘Tennessee Orange’, where she can’t just enjoy the feeling of falling in love and being happy, turning the simple act of wearing the football jersey of the boy she loves into an existential treatise on family betrayal. As with most of Moroney’s catalogue, it’s about the jersey, yes, but it’s always about so much more than a boy with “a smile that makes me forget I’ve always looked better in red”.
It’s such lyrics, and her ‘professional emo cowgirl’ beauty queen styling that form the basis of those deserved and inevitable comparisons with early Kacey Musgraves. It’s ramped up by the namecheck of artists like John Prine (see Musgraves’ ‘Burn One With John Prine’), and is apparent on the hilarious ‘Sleep On My Side’, where she sings, “It’s good that we’re so different but when the day is done / I sleep on my side and you sleep with everyone”.
‘Another on the Way’ is one of the more character-driven songs, told through the wisdom of landlady Miss Daisy, though nothing quite reaches the small town observational heights of ‘Hair Salon’ from Moroney’s EP ‘Pistol Made of Roses’.
Title track Lucky is a true honky-tonker, showing that emo doesn’t always have to be downbeat, as Megan sings “tonight you’re lucky I’m drinking”.
Album closer ‘Sad Songs for Sad People’ perhaps sums her approach up best with the brilliantly dark observation that “I really like the way I really don’t hate spending my time with you / And instead of being dead my roses are red and I ain’t quite so blue”.
Moroney is, by her own admission, “not great at guitar”. It doesn’t matter here, though, because the production – characteristically casual – doesn’t need to do much when the lyrics are the star of everything. In the age of country singers with huge, blowback voices and frantic guitar solos – see recent releases by Luke Combs and Nate Smith, and of course the ever-present shadow of Chris Stapleton – it’s refreshing to have someone like Megan to just roll an eye, raise an eyebrow and pull out her pen.