Sometimes you put a record on and you instantly know you’re going to love it. It’s almost impossible to rationalise why and there’s really no need to, it’s just a gut feel that says “yes”. I can’t think of a great album that doesn’t grab you from the outset and whilst the opening song from Thieves doesn’t leap out at you looking for attention it immediately creates a vibe that both captures your imagination and invites you to climb on board for the ride. The Valley has such a disarming feel and sweet melody, yet surprisingly was the ice breaker for a bout of writer’s block for Tracy McNeil: “There’s a quiet in the valley that I just can’t seem to hear, too busy drowning in the chaos from above that holds me here” but it’s not the chaos that’s holding you here, it’s the honesty.
It’s the combination of Tracy McNeil’s heartfelt openness and her ear for melody that really makes Thieves such an irresistible record. Middle of the Night swings into such an effortless groove that it just sounds like it belongs on the radio, though behind those jangling guitars there is still a vulnerability: “taking in the dark air dreaming of a place where somebody would get it right”.
From laid back retro rock to alt country with a dash of blues Thieves never loses the heart of the song and that’s the essence of what Tracy McNeil does best as a songwriter, she keeps it real. Perhaps on this album more than ever, as it was written when her dad was dying with cancer. Her father was also a musician and a big inspiration to Tracy and while his presence is there throughout the record it never succumbs to the obvious grief she experienced during this period of her life. Even the most tender of songs like Blueprint and Ashes which are clearly about her father are wrought with a poignant and at times ethereal beauty.
The first single from the album Paradise has a familiarity that belongs to another time and place. Previously Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife have been compared to Fleetwood Mac, but this is so unerringly close to the mark that it sounds like the best thing Fleetwood Mac never recorded, right down to Dan Parson’s licks taking on a Lindsay Buckingham styled lead guitar as the song tails out all the way back to the 70’s and California’s west coast.
Parsons is one of 2 new members in the band (the other is bassist Trent McKenzie) and brings a whole new dynamic as he shares guitar duties with McNeil’s partner Luke Sinclair. Parsons is already an accomplished musician with a number of solo albums to his credit, while Sinclair also fronts the acclaimed Melbourne based Americana outfit Raised By Eagles. With so much obvious talent within The GoodLife it could so easily have slipped into a group of virtuosos playing for themselves, yet music this good could only have been created by a band in the purest sense of the word. They sound like they’ve been playing together as a unit for years and now with such a beautiful album to show for it we can only hope that they continue to do so.
Thieves is out on 1 July through Slip Rail Records. Tracy McNeil & the GoodLife play NightQuarter on Friday July 15.