Album Review – Megan Moroney’s “Lucky”

photo: David McClister

It’s official, ladies and gentlemen. Country music has entered a new neotraditional age. Not dissimilar to when George Strait and Randy Travis showed up on the scene in the 80s and swayed everything in the direction of more country-sounding tunes, we’re seeing large swaths of mainstream country re-adopt country sounds and country sentiments in popular music.

There may be no better evidence for this than the debut album Lucky from Savannah, Georgia-native Megan Moroney. No, it’s not because Moroney is making straight-down-the-middle traditional country. The reason it’s significant is because she’s a major label-signed 25-year-old pop country starlet fresh into Nashville whose music happens to be slathered with steel guitar, steeping in classic country lore, and dare we say superbly written when it comes to a good handful of songs.

Moroney started singing professionally while attending the University of Georgia, including opening a show for Kristian Bush of Sugarland. Moroney and Bush kept in touch, and when she graduated and moved to Nashville in 2020, Kristian hooked Moroney up with co-writers and started producing some songs for her. This included a song called “Tennessee Orange” about being a Bulldogs fan dating a Volunteers guy. The song started going viral, especially after Moroney was seen in a Volunteers shirt owned by Morgan Wallen. Soon she was signed to Arista Nashville.

“Tennessee Orange” has since gone Top 10 in country, will soon be a #1, and is already Certified Platinum. Though the song may be a little too SEC cringe for those in ACC and Pac 12 country, it’s the steel guitar in the signal, and the waltz beat in the time signature that makes it not just another silly pop country song straining to use sentimentality for substance and appeal.

“Tennessee Orange” may still leave some serious country fans asking, “That’s it?” The opening song of the album called “I’m Not Pretty” is pretty much a rehash of tired radio country themes too. But when Moroney hits you upside the head with the pretty spectacularly-written and stripped down “Girl In The Mirror,” you start to understand what the fuss is all about.

Willie Nelson once sang “Sad Songs and Waltzes Aren’t Selling This Year.” Megan Moroney proves that’s not the case in 2023. The title track “Lucky” might not waltz, but it definitely swings, and reminds you of 90s-era Brooks & Dunn with a little early Shania Twain mixed in. Moroney looks like a Barbie doll, but she sounds like someone 30 years older than she is.

Lucky also delivers with a song co-written by Lori McKenna called “Kansas Anymore,” and basically the final 1/3rd of the album is all gold with the June Carter-inspired “Why Johnny,” another waltz in “Georgia Girl,” a sentimental ode to struggle in “Mustang or Me,” and the R&B-tinged “Sad Songs for Sad People” that is ironically one of the few love songs on the album. About the only misstep is the eye roll-worthy “Traitor Joe” that tries too hard to be clever.

Everything is enhanced by it all feeling very personal to Megan Moroney. She evokes Georgia in multiple songs, and though we’re used to pretty faces and platinum blondes leaning on pop sensibilities in country, Moroney shows a commitment to country instrumentation, and even name drops John Prine in a moment. Let’s not forget that Georgia was very much the hotbed for Bro-Country a few years ago. Megan bucks that stereotype too.

Similar to the albums of Lainey Wilson and Carly Pearce, you have to pick and choose your way through Lucky. But it can’t be emphasized enough what a sea change we are experiencing currently in the mainstream, with Megan Moroney symbolizing a broadening and entrenching of a neotraditional wave that is not only being embraced by Music Row’s major labels, but by country audiences that are thirsty for things that sound country, and that are more authentic than in previous eras. Megan Moroney definitely fits that bill.

1 1/2 Guns Up

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Purchase Megan Moroney’s Lucky

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