We’re products of our environment. If you wear puffy vests and fuzzy boots, you’re probably familiar with Target. If you wear a fedora ironically, you probably frequent only foreign films and have friends with thick rimmed glasses. If you wear a cowboy hat, drive a truck, and use terms like “y’all” you’re probably familiar with Texas. And there is nothing wrong with any of this.
But what happens when you don’t quite fit the environment?
Well, we here at Nanobot Rock tend to avoid stereotypes anyway, but in the case of Matthew McNeal, going against the stereotype pays dividends in the form of Good Luck.
Paying the tab of Compadre, leaving the bar, and getting out on the open road, McNeal thrives in the open air, life, and creativity in Good Luck while leaving the reflective undertones of his debut behind. This plays in both benefit and in drawbacks with the latest release.
Within the expanse of his songs, love, heartache, and pain are in the blood of McNeal, but in a Jackson Browne sense on this sophomoric release. This is quite possibly most evident in the album opener, the rolling, sliding, earworm anthem “Rumorosa.” The sun glazed, foot tapping atmosphere of Good Luck is a refreshing blend of Americana with nods to each coast. “Run” kicks the desert sand in retrospect, “Tightrope” drives a stern stare on vintage steely sound, and “Hard Six Years” plays to the sunset. And seemingly just for good measure “Gotta Get To You” tosses in a bit of flair and energy that oddly fits incredibly well. Through the course of Good Luck, Matthew McNeal cruises, window down, air flowing through his hair while the setting sun bakes the leather seats and plays soundtrack to the Americana reflection of the vast openness of any one person.
Good Luck comes short of packing the solid punch of songwriting found in McNeal’s debut, but not by much. And where the heartache ballad is missing, he more than makes up for it in deeply seeded all-encompassing sound and presence. He may not fit the mold of his environment, but armed with some decent boots and a hell of a record, Matthew McNeal lays down a second album that goes to great lengths in stating proudly and profoundly, he’s not like the rest and he doesn’t give a damn about those who try to be.
Greg is a co-founder and regular contributor of Nanobot Rock.