I was unfamiliar with songwriter Matt Megrue and his new solo project, Loners Society, so when I popped in his self-titled EP, I wasn’t ready for what happened. “Outlaws & Saints,” the phenomenal opening track, immediately felt familiar with bits of early Tom Petty and vintage Whiskeytown in the first verse. I was hooked.
The chorus on “Outlaws & Saints” is one of the strongest I’ve heard in years, again reminding me of Petty, specifically his Southern classic “Rebels” with it’s “hey, hey, hey” chorus. Megrue sings: “Oh, oh, oh/ Make me an outlaw/Oh, oh, oh/Make me a saint/Oh, oh, oh/Make me somebody/That never quits when all the shit comes to call.” The song builds perfectly to a powerhouse chorus, with Megrue and Don McCollister deserving props for their co-producing roles.
The tones are consistent throughout the album: yearning, regretful, yet hopeful. And the lyrics are beautifully stuck in real life.
Megrue, the former frontman of Unusual Suspects and County Line Strangers, wrote each song and performed every instrument and his own backup vocals. He’s been based in Charleston for a few years now, but this EP brings him to another level.
“I’ll Write the Sad Songs” is quite upbeat musically, even as Megrue praises the somewhat depressing songs he himself sings, finishing the chorus with “I’ll write the sad songs/You write the hits.” While none of the latter songs match the grandiosity of “Outlaws & Saints,” one could hardly expect them to.
Megrue’s soft voice could be stronger on “A Hymn with No Name,” but the lyrics are thoughtful and intriguing. After the first few verses, it melts into a thoroughly satisfying concoction of melody and emotion.
This four-song collection is easily one of the best local recordings of the year, and a week after my first listen, it’s still in my CD player. (lonerssociety.com)
Loners Society shares the stage with Mac Leaphart at the Windjammer on Fri. Dec. 9.