Carson McHone Record Review
Goodluck Man (Good Horse)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., July 31, 2015
Carson McHone's debut full-length arrives heavy with expectations, the native songwriter having established herself at the forefront of a generation of country-courting artists coalesced around the White Horse's roots scene. Boasting preemptive credits including duetting with Shakey Graves for his Austin City Limits taping and rocking backup as Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Chick Singer, Badass Rockin'," McHone's bow highlights what her peers have recognized in her talent, if still early in its development. Goodluck Man builds the buzz of her nascent career, heavy on upbeat honky-tonk, awash in pedal steel, and stunning by its end with closing pair "How 'Bout It" and the title cut. McHone's vocal control impresses throughout, not in range but in emotion, which drips with longing and stares in defiance via a balance of vulnerability and strength. The opening trifecta of "Poet," "Maybe They're Just Really Good Friends," and "Ain't You Lucky (I Love Being Lonely)" aims for the dance floor amid disillusion, the latter capturing the duality between slow-pulling verses and a double-time chorus. "Dram Shop Girl" reveals something deeper, however, echoing Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith in the soft, wistful portrait that McHone paints. The production struggles to capture the nuance of McHone's voice, especially on fiddle ballad "Bouquet" and a powerful Neko Case blast opening "Gentle With My Mind." Yet the gentle and wanting "How 'Bout It" and the title track showcase exceptional songwriting against sparse guitar. Carson McHone's Goodluck Man thus serves more as proper career launch than highly anticipated capstone, brimming with promise and natural talent.