What a clear and beautiful voice is heard across each of these five, largely unadorned, too-short originals. Clarity of sound – delivered fresh, like a spring songbird welcoming a rainy morning – making you wonder why this is the first time we’ve heard Megan Lacy’s voice long before this debut. Originally in a band called SoulRadio with (“Salvation” co-writer) Gil Gaus, a quick listen to “Juliet” (ReverbNation) reveals a lovely voice somewhat lost in a meandering track, rescued by Justin Douglas’ dobro accompaniment. This same Douglas has engineered, produced and mixed Megan Lacy’s Salvation – yet the calibre of the songwriting is so much stronger, the melodies more memorable and her voice, so vibrant and acutely focused on the material.
“Salvation” appears to be the featured track here yet, given its somewhat dour-bordering-on-dark content, it’s a little grey for most palates – heart-wrenchingly so. At the same time, the quality of her vocal positively shines across such monochromatic material. “Welcoming the dark” has never revealed such an explosion of simpatico color. Swallowing our limitations ultimately delivers, if nothing else, peace-of-mind.
The comparatively upbeat “Don’t Rest” – just this side of a funeral march, mind you – involves the rest of the band (Chris Cox – bass, keyboards; Aaron Parks – drums; Justin Douglas – pedal steel, dobro) adding, on this track only, some haunting guitar from Jordan Burchill, which serves to illuminate the backdrop. Given the subject matter, that little ray of light is welcome but this is no put-down: Lacy could sing the proverbial phone book and render it something beautiful – her voice the ultimate anti-depressant.
One of the strongest tracks is “Carolina,” with its unforgettable chorus. Originally a native of North Carolina, she sings of trying to place the past onto one’s rear-view mirror, before realizing that there’s no such thing as erasing one’s history. We carry it with us. Whether ‘Carolina’ is a place, a friend, a family member or a lover matters not – what matters is that we’re each the sum of our parts, like it or not. Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, Cox’s warm bass joins Parks’ simple beat and cymbal wash and keyboards – the spotlight saved, once again, for Lacy’s mournful, yet always hopeful, voice.
Stronger still is the entirely bewitching “No Better.” Although playing off the song’s lyric of ‘knowing better’ by her experiences, she concludes that, after the heartbreak, she is actually “no better now.” To choose and lose is rarely a positive experience, yet Lacy’s delicate touch manages to lift the lyric beyond despair (check out the extent of her sacrifice as it reaches its most soulful pinnacle at 3:54) and the realization that she did nothing wrong. Again, her band gently folds gentle accompaniment behind her pain with little more than soft electric guitar, Cox’s animated bass and Parks’ steady rhythmic edge. Lacy erupts with notes you’re not likely to hit in the shower – but that’s where you’re liable to this revisit this tormented jewel. Distinctive in its reliance on the opening beat, electric keyboards and guitar join sumptuous pedal steel as Lacy’s vocal soars above the clouds, granting her perspective – and some distance – from the trials of the world below. The pairing of her vocal with pedal steel is brilliant, as the percussion sits behind them – like so many gentle raindrops drip-drip-dripping into a bucket, offering an otherworldly effect. Clearly, this may sound like a party you never wanted to be invited to, yet the delicate elegance of Megan Lacey’s voice underlines the beauty and the potential that remains behind every sad tale. Kudos to her fellow players and the production team who have placed every nuance of Lacy’s voice front and center. This is a lovely, positive release which, like a brightening sky that inevitably follows the threat of any rainstorm, makes it all the more welcome. https://www.meganlacymusic.com