On her debut album – Lucky – Megan Moroney builds on the sonic foundation she laid out on ‘Tennessee Orange.’
Even before the release of Lucky – her debut full-length album, Megan Moroney was clearly a star in the making. From her single ‘Tennessee Orange,’ it was clear there was something special and original about this star. Her album makes that paramountly clear – equal parts vulnerable and hilarious, Lucky offers a conversational exploration into heartbreak, joy and pain. It’s a showcase of what country music can be at its best – a celebration of its heritage, but cleverly twisting the genre and moving it forward into the next generation.
The album opens with ‘I’m Not Pretty’ – simultaneously one of the wittiest and most shrewd country songs of 2023 so far. The track shows Megan imagining her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend looking through her Instagram and vilifying her. ‘Tearing me down, passing the phone around / Like there’s nothing better to talk about / Zooming out, Zooming in, overanalyzin’ / Like the queen of the mean girls’ committee / But hey, whatever helps / Keep on telling yourself / I’m not pretty.’ The magic of the song is in the relatability both of the subject and singer of the track – Moroney is witty in her observations, confident yet not cocky and it’s immensely charming.
There’s a great deal of bluegrass honky-tonk fun on the record, but it’s delivered in a balanced and restrained fashion that makes it all the more compelling. On ‘Lucky,’ Moroney points out the luck of a lover that she’s drinking or she wouldn’t be making bad decisions – him. ‘And we said we’d be better as friends / But come over and don’t overthink it / Tonight you’re lucky I’m drinkin’.‘ It’s a drinking, party anthem, yes but it doesn’t need to have every instrument turned up to 11 to make it both fun and intoxicating, Moroney’s lyrics do that on their home. That proof is hammered home too on ‘Another On The Way’ which offers a clapping, foot-stomping track as she sings of a bartender – Miss Daisy – and her advice. ‘Baby, don’t you cry / ‘Cause men they’re like trains / If you miss one, there’s another on the way.’ This is detailed, storytelling country songwriting at its best, with its ability to paint a picture of Miss Daisy and her skull tattoo, and it’s a rocket-fuelled delight. Of course, it’s not just men who are judged on Lucky. On ‘Traitor Joe,’ Moroney shows how girls can be the bad seed in a story too as she lets Joe know his girl is stepping out on him. ‘She’s a player, player, a wolf in sheep’s clothes / All I’m sayin’, sayin’, is you should let her go / She’s a traitor, traitor, Joe.’ It’s a grown up, mature version of ‘You Belong With Me,’ as Moroney shows who the better match for Joe clearly is.
Of course, Moroney doesn’t just point fun at heartbreak, there’s a good deal of indulgence in that pain too on the record. ‘Kansas Anymore’ is one of the most melancholic bluegrass-tinged tracks you’ll find on Lucky, as Moroney sings of a love gone wrong. ‘I opened the front door / Sat on the front porch all alone / And everything’s changing, my heart is breaking / ‘Cause baby, we ain’t in Kansas anymore.’ Later track, ‘Mustang Or Me’ offers a similarly stunning take on heartbreak, where Moroney questions ‘Who’s gonna break down first, this Mustang or me?‘ The latter is a gorgeous piano ballad that allows her to pour emotion into every line.
More than anything, Lucky is riddled with self-reflection and a deep unpacking of heartbreak and relationships. So, on ‘Girl in the Mirror’ Moroney takes a look at love gone wrong and the downside of losing yourself in a relationship, as she looks in the mirror and can’t see herself anymore. ‘She looks just like me but I don’t recognize her / She’s got the same eyes but they’re heavy and tired / He just walked out and she’s standing right here / She loves the boy more than she loves the girl in the mirror.’ In the end, she comes to the realisation that she needs to love herself more than the boy and it’s an empowering sentiment to be left with.
That kind of introspection and questioning carries through in ‘Why Johnny’ – another standout from a record of hit tracks, as Moroney pens a letter to June Cash, asking just why she chose Johnny. There’s a great deal of yearning and hope in Moroney’s lyrics, wanting June to give her the answer she wants. ‘Did you always know he’d come around / Change his ways and settle down? / Did your friends call you crazy too? / It’d sure help if I knew / Hey June, why Johnny?‘ With the help of tinges of lapsteel, this track is turned into something magical and musing on this thoughtful original track. Alongside this, ‘God Plays A Gibson’ is another of the cleverest lyrical moments on the record that sees Moroney pondering on what the man she prays to nightly is like. ‘I spend so much of my time wondering what He’s really like / I like to think He spends His off-days up there fishin’ / And I bet God plays a Gibson.’ It’s a musing and meandering track that suckers you in with every line.
The parting line of ‘Georgia Girl’ feels like a motif for the entirety of the record. ‘You’re gonna learn you don’t mess with a Georgia girl.’ This, alongside ‘Sleep On My Side’ are searing character assassinations delivered with a sweet smile, as Moroney shows a middle finger to a cheating lover. The second offers the wittiest retort, as Moroney points out how the differences between her and a lover can be good, except the fact that ‘I sleep on my side / And you sleep with everyone.’ After these judgement calls, ‘Sad Songs For Sad People’ takes an about turn – it is imbued with a great deal of hope and offers a glimpse into where her music may go in the future, as she talks about writing a love song. ‘Your smile, you know what it does to me / ‘Cause of you I got something new to sing.’
Lucky is an extraordinary album – it’s a celebration of country music and women in equal measure, delivered with an immense amount of depth and heart. It’s intimate and empowering, but wittily delivered, making it incredibly charming and relatable. It’s a record that feels like therapy for the artist as she unpacks all the baggage of an ex-lover, musing and pensive and proving that a song doesn’t need to be ‘huge’ to make it a great song.