If you’ve ever seen the breaking of the dawn in the American Southwest, you’ve felt how the sun’s gradual rise warms the desert floor. You shake the cold with every tick. Singer-Songwriter Matthew McNeal opens up his upcoming album, Good Luck, in a similar fashion. The California Country tinged “Rumorosa” sets the tone from the get-go.
“Songs that I really love are the ones that you catch the vibe from the very beginning,” McNeal tells Wide Open Country. “You fall into it. We tried to take something from a whisper to a yell. There’s beauty in that.”
There’s a constant build up in “Rumorosa’s” driving groove that’s intoxicating rush. Much of that can be contributed to longtime collaborator Andre Black. He sets the pace throughout Good Luck’s laidback West Coast adventure with late night slow-burners and brisk rumbles at breakneck speed. With “Rumorosa,” they set a high bar. Ever so often, it feels as though McNeal and company will ride the wave until the end. Instead, they jump back into gear searching for another crest. McNeal leads the harmony charge with the glowing chorus chant of “Baby, leave the light on!” They echo as if they’re vibrating off canyon walls.
“I love a good rolling driving song,” says McNeal. “Rumorosa, it’s this little town right on the border in Baja California. I loved the name and how it felt like it could be a destination point or the name of a woman — or both. I didn’t want to write anything too literal about either. When we play it live, it becomes different every time.”
That sun-kissed sound sweeps across Good Luck without overpowering McNeal’s rootsy songs. McNeal isn’t offering a poor imitation of The Byrds, the Eagles, or The Flying Burrito Brothers with Good Luck. Rather, it’s blended into McNeal’s soulful alt-country grit.
“We were really drawn to these empty highways of the southwest,” says McNeal. “That whole California sound, it’s something that I’ve always loved. You don’t want to sound corny, but they just feel good. You hear so much optimism coming out of the West Coast. It seems like you’ve heard that come out of California for the last 60 years or so.”
Good Luck was recorded at Plum Creek Sound with Israel Nash and Grammy award-winning engineer Ted Young (Kurt Vile, The Rolling Stones). “We were so fortunate to have Ted Young behind the board,” says McNeal. “He let the honesty and rawness of the record speak. We tried to let the songs breathe. He didn’t try and cover up anything. We did it all on this 1971 tape machine.”
With Nash’s band in tow and the warming hiss of the analog tape, they add a welcoming gritty texture that glistens and radiates. “Israel Nash and his band, those guys are like brothers to me,” adds McNeal. “It feels like we made a family record.”