PRESS

COUNTRY UPDATE MAG December 2016 by Gareth Hipwell

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Best Of 2016 Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife, Thieves

Country is a style more often celebrated for its earthiness and down-home textures than for broad, sweeping, cinematic strokes and swathes of nostalgic, quicksilver instrumentation. McNeil and her enviable band achieve the latter effect while retaining the essential storytelling bent of the country greats. Thieves is a glorious dose of short-wave AM brilliance – a dusky reimagining of the classic sounds of the Seventies greats carried by McNeil’s spellbinding voice. The track I can’t stop playing: ‘Blueprint’.


THE MUSIC December 2016 by Jeff Jenkins

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Albums Of the Year

No. 11 – Thieves

Elegant, exquisite alt country.


LISTENING THROUGH THE LENS December 2016 by Rob Dickens

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Best Albums 2016: No. 18 Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife – Thieves

Tracy McNeil‘s Thieves is her fourth studio release and it is replete with personal, mature and engrossing songs.  It comes after memorable highs in 2015 where she toured solo in Canada, supported talented L.A. rock band Dawes and played at AmericanaFest in Nashville TN.  All of these events, however, were over-shadowed by the loss of her father, musician Wayne ‘Mac’ McNeil and the album is dedicated to him.  The tragedy has led to some cathartic and brilliant writing.  McNeil wrote all ten songs on which were penned across three countries.

The opening track is remarkably good – the gentle and reflective ‘The Valley’ is an ode to writer’s block, when you’re lacking a spark and looking for inspiration.  It was recorded live in just a few takes and has McNeil in fine voice.  ‘Middle of The Night’ is gritty alt. country and is another well-crafted song (‘so we burned these wheels right through, like there was nothing else we’d ever want to do’).  The single ‘Paradise’ is a catchy Fleetwood Mac/L.A. rock track about the space between strangers and is eminently likable.

The title track is an absolute highlight – it’s quiet but with immense strength.  I could spend hours just listening to that song over and over.  The pace quickens for ‘White Rose’ which was recorded in two parts – the first was layered in the studio while the outro section was recorded in co-producer Shane O’Mara’s living room.

Key Tracks: The Valley, Paradise, Thieves, White Rose


TIMBER AND STEEL December 2016

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Artists’ Top Albums Of 2016

 

Leah FlanaganThieves is such an enjoyable record to listen to. It’s poppy and catchy yet underneath the veneer of fun singalong good times the songs themselves incredibly well crafted and arranged. Tracey writes a damn good song and if you’re lucky enough to see her band live, you’ll see them play those songs damn well too.

Gretta Ziller – I’ll be the first to admit I’m late to the game when it comes to Tracy McNeil & The Goodlife. I caught their set at Out on the Weekend and was captivated! Their 2016 album Thieves is just so dang easy to listen to, I will confess it is turning into a “chilling on the deck summer favourite” of mine! Please, if you haven’t already, pick up or download a copy of this album and chill!!


OFF THE RECORD December 2016

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Best Of 2016 Listeners Poll

No. 5 Australian Albums – Thieves

No. 2 Gigs Of the Year – Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife @ Caravan Club

 


5 FEET HIGH AND RISING December 2016

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Best Local Album 2016Thieves

 

 


THE INTERNATIONAL AMERICANA MUSIC SHOW December 2016

Best Of 2016 show


POST TO WIRE December 2016

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No. 24 Favourite Albums Of 2016Thieves

 

 

 


BASEMENT DISCS December 2016

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No. 2 Best Of 2016 Australian ReleasesThieves

 

 


THE AGE MUSIC VICTORIA AWARDS November 2016

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Winner: Best Country Album – Thieves

 

 

 


ROLLING STONE AUSTRALIA September 2016 by Samuel J. Fell

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The Future Is Now

 

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ROLLING STONE AUSTRALIA July 2016 by Gareth Hipwell

Rolling_Stone_logo.svg Tracy McNeil & the GoodLife: Thieves

✯✯✯✯ Dazzling fourth LP from Melbourne alt.country traveller

A masterful follow-up to the much-admired Nobody Ever Leaves (2014), Thieves mediates assuredly between free-wheeling Hollywood-and-Vine country-rock circa 1976 and the set-in-the-bones feeling of peers like the Delines (“Ashes”).

It’s a technicolour West Coast dreamscape: the sound of sunrise over cedars and noonday Joshua Trees and high desert dusk. Guitarists Dan Parsons and Luke Sinclair pair so many keening, arcing licks with crisp rhythm parts (“White Rose”), while McNeil herself is the very embodiment of Seventies indulgence, chanelling Fleetwood Mac with “Paradise” and sweltering country-soul in closer “Finer Side”.


RHYTHMS MAGAZINE July 2016 by Chris Lambie

Rhythms

TRACY MCNEIL & THE GOODLIFE – THIEVES

(SlipRail Records)

While previous releases by Melbourne singer-songwriter Tracy McNeil heralded a notable talent, Thieves confirms that promise. Raised in Canada by musician parents, she echoes the best of their likely influencers (CSN&Y, Mamas & Papas, Linda Ronstadt). All the elements are there: catchy and original tunes, seamless vocal and instrumental harmonies, lyrics perfectly matched to the rhythms. First single ‘Paradise’ is instantly memorable. The GoodLife features Dan Parsons on lead guitar, Luke Sinclair on rhythm guitar, drummer Bree Hartley and Trent McKenzie on bass. Co-producer/engineer Shane O’Mara nails the cool ‘LA dreaming’ sound – smooth, driving and hypnotic in turn. Written on tour in the wake of grief, the reflective content remains uplifting. Guitars once played by McNeil’s late father add their own warmth in tone and mood.

Touted by some as alt-Country meets West Coast pop/rock, Thieves qualifies as a ‘classic album’ just waiting to be heard. McNeil grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. If either released any one of these songs today, they’d return to the top of the charts.


PBS FM (106.7FM) Feature Record for the week beginning Mon June 27, 2016

logoTracy McNeil and the GoodLife Thieves

The new album from Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife is an absolute stunner – beautiful harmonies, melodies and clever arrangements make Thieves an album that you will listen to over and over again. Tracy started writing the album in Canada, around the time her father passed away. As a result, you can hear that each song comes from a deeply personal place. For Tracy that emotion has come out in the form of an album packed with raw energy, where punchy songwriting is met with driving rhythms and accentuated with gorgeous harmonies to create something that feels like the start of a new beginning. In there you can hear an early 1970’s California sound, but Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife have put their own stamp on it to make this one of the stand out recordings of the year. Cat – The Breakfast Spread


STACK June 2016 by Jeff Jenkins

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Artist: Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife – Thieves

Tracy McNeil doesn’t make three-minute pop songs; as she sings on her fourth album, “We took the long way.” 

Six of the 10 tracks clock in at more than five minutes, with producer Shane O’Mara allowing them to stretch out, showcasing the dexterous guitar-playing of Dan Parsons and McNeil’s husband, Luke Sinclair. But these songs are also filled with hooks and harmonies that will keep you warm on a winter’s night. “The heat of the summer is never made to stay,” McNeil sings in Ashes, a tribute to her father and the centrepiece of a beautiful record filled with moving meditations on family and friends.


THE MUSIC June 2016 by Chris Familton

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“CSNY and Fleetwood Mac fuse in a gentle Americana sound.”

Tracy McNeil showed flashes of brilliance on her previous album Nobody Ever Leaves and she’s taken that one step further with a more consistent set of songs on Thieves.

There’s a laidback smooth quality to McNeil’s music that recalls US west coast FM rock of the late ’70s, with warm harmonies, swaying guitar lines and a general uplifting quality, even in her darker moments. CSNY and Fleetwood Mac fuse in a gentle Americana sound as McNeil sings of love, heartache, loss and distance via styles that range from the crazily catchy Paradise to the atmospheric epic White Rose. There’s a new sense of maturity and confidence to McNeil’s writing that finds her expanding her songwriting palette with rewarding results.

SALTY DOG BLUES N ROOTS PODCAST June 2016

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Great interview with Tracy McNeil, singer songwriter with the renowned Alt country / Americana band Tracy McNeil and the Good Life. We talk about the new album ‘THIEVES’ and her experiences in Canada and Australia getting the material together. With Dan Parsons and Luke Sinclair on either side, Tracy has delivered another searing statement from the heartland. L This is a cut above, and Dawg certified!! Listen here

 

 


JOLENE: THE COUNTRY MUSIC BLOG June 2016 by Sophie Hamley

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Album Review: Thieves by Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife

Thieves – not Tracy McNeil’s first album but her first with band The GoodLife – opens with an invitation in the form of a song called ‘The Valley’. The music, Tracy’s voice, the pace of the song all beckon the listener to come closer. The song suggests that good things await if the listener will just hang around; they’ll be fun things, interesting things, perhaps beautiful things.

That song doesn’t lie, for Thieves is all of those. That’s not to say that all the songs are like ‘The Valley’. In fulfilling its promise, McNeil and her band deploy a range of moods, stories and instrumentation to deliver an album that has moments of musical exquisiteness as well as of toe-tapping joy.

McNeil’s influences range across country, rock, pop and folk; she seems to be able to intuit what’s right for each song without forcing any phrase or lyric, chorus or bridge into an awkward place. All the pieces fit just where they should and not always where you’d expect. For one thing, McNeil is a Canadian now resident in Melbourne, but this album has a distinctly Californian feel to it: a sonic illustration of canyons, winding roads and convertibles, deserts and palms.

One of the reasons why this laidback feel never slides into laziness is McNeil’s voice: she sounds like a person who’s not interested in wasting time, or in spending time on things that aren’t important. Her tone is mellow yet direct; there is depth and empathy. She’s there to entertain and to tell a story. She sounds like she could stop at any moment to crack a great joke or share a sad tale, and both would be appropriate.

Thieves has layers that reveal themselves with repeated listening, and it can also serve as an album to float away on. McNeil’s experience as a singer, songwriter and performer – and the high calibre of her band – have resulted in a creation of easy complexity: a contradiction in terms, and a wonder to behold.


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD June 2016 by Bernard Zuel

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.27.04 PMTracy McNeil follows in her father’s musical footsteps

 

SMHTracyMcNeilThere’s an album on Tracy McNeil’s shelf that she isn’t ready to play yet, even though it was finished a year ago in Toronto. She will play it eventually. Probably. But the circumstances of its making are too raw for the moment.

It isn’t her new album of quality country rock peppered with buoyant pop – think ’70s California – Thieves. Though in some ways it directly informed Thieves, which was part written at the same time in her native Canada and finished in Australia, her home of nine years.

This untouched album is the last one made by her father, a country rock musician who was touring North America in the early ’70s before anyone thought the Eagles were cool, kept playing for decades when cool didn’t matter, and introduced his daughter to the music, the guitar and the passion.

“I’m just not ready. On the surface I might be, and yes I got some songs out of it that helped with the process of grieving but I haven’t gone there yet,” says McNeil, half jokingly adding, “Maybe I should talk to someone.”

Maybe, though, the lessons already seemed to have been learnt. McNeil is married to Luke Sinclair who is in her band and Raised By Eagles, and has a 13-year-old step-daughter. Both she and Sinclair work full-time outside music – she works for the education department – much as her father worked for General Motors all his musical life, and both record and release regularly as well as run their own label.

“It is exhausting,” she says. “We were rehearsing last night and the night before and when Luke’s not involved in those rehearsals he’s starting to write for their next record. It’s a wave, I’m on the top of the wave [at the moment], he’s on the bottom and then it reverses itself.

“Maybe at some point it has to break, but for the moment we are just head down and do it.” But then, having watched her father do it for decades makes it seem normal, if not necessarily sane.

“I thought, ‘I can do that’,” says McNeil. “I noticed he didn’t have much money but he was doing what he loved.”

Even after she moved to Melbourne, McNeil and her father would exchange ideas via Skype or tapes sent back and forth, with her encouraging him to write again as he was encouraging her to keep going. He kept recording on the side with an old bandmate, plugging away for about a decade without an end, until McNeil’s return home for what turned out to be the final months of his life.

“My dad’s dying, I want him to hold this f—ing record in his hand, what are you doing, it’s taking too long,” she recalls thinking. “It might go on forever and I thought I am not going to let that happen so I went out and became [the bandmate’s] sidekick, one track at a time, 14 times.”

It was three quarters done when he died, artwork as well, but at least he’d had a chance to hear and see it. A year later Thieves has arrived to join it. Not necessarily a companion piece but maybe a continuation of a musical line, an honouring of him and what he inspired in her.

“Of all the albums I’ve made I think he would have loved this one the best,” she says. “I don’t know that there is a connection but I do miss the fact that I wasn’t able to share it with him and he never got to hear Ashes [which is about him], but when I get the vinyl on Wednesday, holding that in my hand I’ll be thinking ‘thinking of you Dad, we got it done’.”

Getting it done in Australia, where quality country rock can’t break through the conservative country industry and the equally conservative radio, takes some kind of dedication.

“I watched him not lose heart, to his last breath. Here was a man lying there and the nurse is waiting for him to pass away and saying ‘I can’t believe this guy’s supposed to have a weak heart, he’s holding on’,” says McNeil of her father. “And I watched him to the last second still want to get that record done. He still had that light in his eyes like, ‘fucking get this thing done already’. And I definitely have that drive.”


NO DEPRESSION June 2016 by Rob Dickens

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.48.51 PMTRACY McNEIL’S PERSONAL TRIUMPH  – Thieves

There have been some great Australian releases this year. The bold and polished Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’ by The Weeping Willows, Sweet Jean’s dark and atmospheric Monday To Friday, Bill Jackson’s colourful The Wayside Ballads Vol. 2 and the dirt-road imagery of Shiner by Sean McMahon & The Moonmen come to mind straight away.

Now we have another gem.

Tracy McNeil‘s Thieves (SlipRail Records), is her fourth studio release and it is replete with personal, mature and engrossing songs.  It comes after memorable highs in 2015 where she toured solo in Canada, supported talented L.A. rock band Dawes and played with her excellent band The Good Life at AmericanaFest in Nashville TN.  All of these events, however, were over-shadowed by the loss of her father, musician Wayne ‘Mac’ McNeil and the album is dedicated to him. The tragedy has led to some cathartic and brilliant writing.

McNeil wrote all ten songs on Thieves which were penned across three countries and McNeil & The GoodLife combine seamlessly on these tracks.

The GoodLife are McNeil (vocals, acoustic guitar), Dan Parsons (lead guitars, pedal steel, backing vocals), Luke Sinclair (rhythm and harmony guitars, backing vocals), Bree Hartley (drums, backing vocals, additional percussion) and Trent McKenzie (bass guitar).

The opening track is remarkably good – the gentle and reflective ‘The Valley’ is an ode to writer’s block, when you’re lacking a spark and looking for inspiration.  It was recorded live in just a few takes and has McNeil in fine voice, Suzannah Espie’s backing vocals and Parson’s impressive guitar work. ‘Middle of The Night’ is gritty alt. country and is another well-crafted song (‘so we burned these wheels right through, like there was nothing else we’d ever want to do’).  The single ‘Paradise’ is a catchy Fleetwood Mac/L.A. rock track about the space between strangers and is eminently likable.

‘Blueprint’ was conceived in a hotel room in L.A. and has a beautiful dream-like quality with McNeil never singing better.  ‘Wait on You’ has nice reverb guitar which propels this soul groove (particularly in the refrain) – there’s nothing to excess here – everything is just right.

The title track is an absolute highlight – it’s quiet but with immense strength.  The guitar interplay between Parsons and Sinclair is gripping and the rhythm section of Hartley and McKenzie underlay it all with grace.  I could spend hours just listening to that song over and over. A contender for Australian song of the year.

The pace quickens for ‘White Rose’ which was recorded in two parts – the first was layered in the studio while the outro section was recorded in Shane O’Mara’s living room (he provides a delightful guitar solo, reminiscence of the feel of Derek Trucks).

The closing ‘Finer Side’ has more twang grunt with Sinclair and Parsons sharing vocals, it’s a celebration and provides an appropriately aloha to a beautiful record that has me in its vice-like grip.

Co-­produced by Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife with O’Mara, recorded and mixed by O’Mara at Yikesville Studio Yarraville and mastered by Ross Cockle at Sing Sing Studios.


SOUND DISTRACTIONS June 2016 by Trevor Jackson

cropped-unsplash_5252bb51404f8_1-2Thieves – Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife

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 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 Lindsey 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 July 1st on Slip Rail Records. They’re touring Australia throughout June & July – you’ll find the tour dates here.


THE AGE SPECTRUM Jan 2016 by Kerrie O’Brien

TracyMcNeilSpectrumJan206Melbourne musicians share the back stories about their treasured instruments

TRACY MCNEIL, GUITARIST

When I first came to Australia from Canada in 2007, I was lucky enough to have in my possession my Dad’s, [Wayne McNeil] 1968 Gibson Hummingbird. With a natural finish, this beautiful square-shouldered dreadnought was the guitar my father said would “one day be mine”. With a journey across the world planned and his daughter following in his musical footsteps, he decided to let me take it to Melbourne. It was the guitar he’d played throughout the  ’70s and  ’80s in his touring country-rock band called Fargo.

The Hummingbird rings with a honey-like tone and is instantly recognisable whenever I hear it strummed. Purchased in 1969, Dad worked this guitar to the bone. Its road-worn markings are what make it so special to me. Without a pickup installed, he was forced to nearly pound the guitar in order to hear it over the rest of the band. Today there are deep grooves made by his pick that expose the spruce wood; the once colourful hummingbird and flowers on the pickguard are now worn down to a shadowy outline and there is a distinct rough patch the size of a cowboy belt buckle on the back. These marks are parts of him, his music and his love of the road. Last summer I was lucky enough to spend two months in Canada with my Dad before he passed away. We listened to music and talked about the trials and tribulations of following your dreams. I also mentioned that I was getting nervous bringing the Hummingbird on the road with me; it was too special. I needed a road warrior… a guitar that I could feel good about chucking on to the top of a van or leaving in the careless hands of a domestic airline. He told me there were, in fact, two special acoustic guitars in Fargo, the other one belonging to his cousin, fellow frontman Wayne Tweedy – a Gibson J55 purchased around 1971. This is the guitar I originally intended to talk about for this article but it didn’t seem fair to leave out my first love –  “the bird”.

Songwriter Tracy McNeil with her Gibson.

Much like the Hummingbird, the Gibson J55 is a naturally finished, square-shouldered dreadnought with a sculpted pickguard and a back that is arched slightly like a fiddle. Apparently a young roadie kid was hanging out in the hotel room with the band one night and not realising the guitar was leaning on the bed, yanked at the bed sheet sending the J55 crashing to the floor, snapping off the headstock. That was at some point in the late 1970s – until the mid-1990s it’s been left abandoned and broken at various homes belonging to people who said they would “fix it”. Eventually it was found by my father, covered in soot from the fireplace it had been left next to for years. He cut out a piece of wood to fit over the cracked headstock and secured it with pieces of wooden doweling. Like a missing tooth, one of the six original nickel grover tuning pegs has been replaced by a shiny new one with a different shape. It’s been played in, beaten up and left waiting to be given a new life in Australia.

At the start of last summer I had my brother Logan install a new LR Baggs acoustic pickup so I could play the guitar while I was in Canada. I wrote most of what will be my next album on the J55 during that summer. It’s special to me for so many reasons. It symbolises a history of music in family and a relentless desire to keep working at your craft. When I first opened the case there was a piece of paper folded in half; inside were the lyrics to a duet by Gene Cotton and Kim Carnes, You’re A Part of Me, written in my Dad’s handwriting. Our names and respective verses were there – we used to sing that song together years ago when I could barely work out the harmonies.

Both the Hummingbird and the J55 are integral parts of my life with music and my love for my father. I know he’s somewhere content knowing that both guitars have made it safely to Melbourne and are carrying on the song.

Photo: Simon Schluter


EXCLAIM! MUSIC (CANADA) July 2015 by Kristin Cavoukian

1429118864031Tracy McNeil

NOBODY EVER LEAVES (VITAMIN) 8/10

From the first bass notes and “oohs” on the opening track, “Wildcats,” what we’ve got here is an expertly crafted alt-country-pop album. Tracy McNeil (with her band, the Goodlife) delivers a punchy collection of original songs, well arranged, with just the right amount of that magic dust that gives pop music its sparkly brightness, but not enough to mask its country-rock sincerity. It’s Stephen Stills meets Fleetwood Mac.

Originally from a small-town Ontario musical family, McNeil has called Melbourne, Australia home for years, and her strong, smooth alto voice is tinged with just a hint of Aussie accent. She’s also picked up a fine supporting band that features great interplay between Luke Sinclair and Matt Green’s guitars and finds Bree Hartley (drums) and Rod Boothroyd (bass) locking into sleek rhythm throughout. McNeil’s lyrics (“Time’s running like a cheap ballpoint pen”) and vocals are bold and confident, and from the slow, dreamy watercolour intro on “Luxury Liner” to the parade-march rhythm on “Tooth To A String,” her third album is a treat.

Released a year ago in Australia to critical acclaim, McNeil is finally letting Nobody Ever Leaves loose in Canada, and will be touring the record — solo — around her old southern Ontario stomping ground this summer. Catch her if you can.


RHYTHMS MAGAZINE

Readers Poll – Best Of 2014

Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife: Australian Artist/Band Of The Year

 

 

 

 

 


PBS FM (106.7FM)

logoThe Breakfast Spread – Crispi’s Top 15 Albums Of 2014

7. Tracy McNeil – Nobody Ever Leaves

 


POST TO WIRE

Favourite AU & NZ Releases Of 2014

15. Tracy McNeil – Nobody Ever Leaves

 


THE BASEMENT DISCS

Best Of 2014 List

Australian – Tracy McNeil, Nobody Ever Leaves

 

 

 


RHYTHMS MAGAZINE

Rhythms-LogoMullum Music Fest review

November 20-23, Mullumbimby, NSW

 

Martin Jones: Tracy McNeil has assembled a band to be envied by all in her latest incarnation of The GoodLife. With Dan Parsons on one side, her partner Luke Sinclair (Raised By Eagles) on the other, she has two of Australia’s finest roots singer/guitarist/songwriters helping bring her songs to life, not to forget rhythm section Bree Hartley and Craig Kelly. This was fully realised, world-class country rock.

Samuel J. Fell: Sunday is traditionally, for me at least, a slow and sludgy day, but the offerings were too good to pass up. Having served out the Rhythms southern style smoked brisket the day before, while Tracy McNeil & The GoodLife played inside St. Martins Hall next to us, I headed to the Bowlo to see then properly – these guys are mesmerising, their churning, grinding country rock ‘n’ roll a treat and then some. I’ll leave it to Marty to describe in more detail their chops, but these guys were my festival pick, hands down.


AMERICANA UK

Tracy McNeil

NOBODY EVER LEAVES (VITAMIN) 8/10

New found Australian resident, and recent Canadian exile Tracy McNeil’s name may solely grace the cover of this impressive new album, but her band, The GoodLife, are certainly a chief underlying element of this album’s success. The sound of this accomplished record is definitely veered towards vintage 1970s laurel canyon country-rock, and radio friendly melodic rock musings, and its contents will be very familiar with anyone who has ever been swayed by the country/modern charms of bands like Whiskeytown, and also vintage American pop/rock song writing of the likes of Fleetwood Mac, but also Gram Parsons. ‘Swinging’ and ‘Learning to Run’ are great crunchy and purposeful country-rock tunes with thoughtful intelligent lyrics and forceful melodies. Elsewhere, the ballads like ‘The Last Place I Looked’ are tender and deftly handled. Moody opener ‘Wildcats’ sounds in melody and melodic questioning like a great early Ryan Adams emotional autopsy, and it’s not a unique moment of similarity here.

McNeil’s ability to conjure emotional fisticuffs is a truly magnetic thing. The fact that the full and rich sound of the band behind her is often threatening and melodically familiar and welcoming all at once is a wonderful discovery, as the rich melodies ebb and flow. Special mention must go to lead guitarist Matt Green, who weaves wonderfully tasteful country lines, among the occasional barrage of dissonant angry noise to wonderful and stirring effect and lends an urgency of ideas and imagination to the classic set-up. It’s almost like Nels Cline’s mind-straddling elevations to Wilco songs; its sometimes that good. ‘Nobody Ever Leaves’ is a very accomplished and beautiful album from a truly talented singer/songwriter who we deserve to hear more from. The atmosphere it creates is often magical, and the tunes are often to die for. Tracy McNeil and her band are a real cut above the crowd.


THE AGE MUSIC VICTORIA GENRE AWARDS 2014

TRACY McNEIL – NOBODY EVER LEAVES

Nomination: Best Country Album

Nomination: Best Folk Roots Album

 


POLYESTER RECORDS #1 on the Polyester Charts week beginning Mon 4 Aug 2014

polyesterrecordsTracy McNeil

NOBODY EVER LEAVES (VITAMIN)

This here is quintessential country rock; stomping drums, immaculate harmonies, Knopfler-esque shredding electric guitar and confident lead vocals. A recipe for success!


JB HiFi STACK MAGAZINE July 2014 by Denise Hylands

indexTracy McNeil

NOBODY EVER LEAVES (VITAMIN)

**** (4 stars)

Arriving from Canada in 2008, Tracy McNeil established herself amongst the flourishing Melbourne music scene as an incredibly gifted songwriter. On her third solo album, she offers us her best so far – these are stories from the heart with leads of compassion and confidence. This is twang with attitude, and strong rock-pop grit provided by her incredibly talented band The GoodLife – Matt Green (Simone Felice) lead guitar, Rod Boothroyd bass, Luke Sinclair (Raised by Eagles) guitar and Bree Hartley on drums. As a whole, they sing and play these fiercely personal and powerful songs. Take notice folks, this is a talent not to be missed.


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD July 2014 by Bernard Zuel

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.27.04 PMTracy McNeil

NOBODY EVER LEAVES (VITAMIN)

**** (4 stars)

After Heart of Gold became a massive hit in the early ’70s Neil Young didn’t take the expected path of writing another Heart of Gold and then another. Instead, he confounded expectations.

Later, Young famously said that that song had “put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch”. If that choice seemed in keeping with his already developed tendency to the curmudgeonly, the rest of the quote fleshed out a rationale which makes more and more sense the further down the road we all go. “[It was] a rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.”

Take note of that phrase “more interesting people”. Not necessarily better or smarter or more successful, but maybe more likely to spark your brain a bit or keep you interested longer or have you return next time around. With that in mind, if you are the kind of person who travels down the country music road, are you inclined to veer towards the median strip or the edges?…

In one sense Tracy McNeil, a Canadian who relocated to Melbourne, is someone nearer the centre of the road. She’s more firmly country rock, with a band that punches more than Swift’s or Muth’s. A song such as Sleep In Your Eye  could (with its edges sanded down and trumpet excised for another guitar) work double duty in the hands of Keith Urban. But there’s far too much earthiness and heart in McNeil’s songs to pass muster at Nashville’s Music Row offices and frankly, in songs such as Swinging, far too much country for them too.

McNeil has stories with a bit of bite to them, accentuated by surges of firm-footed guitar from Matt Green and, particularly in Tooth to a String, vigorous backing vocals from the rest of her very good band, the GoodLife. But whether in the Jackson Browne-like A Little More Like Love (where organ pushes its way in) and the Pretenders-like prowl of Wildcats; or the open-aired City Lights and the indoorsy Last Place I Looked, McNeil keeps making songs so easy to like.

And all this while pointing her car towards the ditch. You know, where the interesting people are.


PBS FM (106.7FM) Feature Record for the week beginning Mon 7 July 2014

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 I love this album!! One of the best of 2014 thus far and a great example of an album being all killer – no filler and extremely strong songwriting!! Tracy is a Canadian singer/songwriter but has been living in Australia for about 8 years and performing regularly around Melbourne ever since. This album comes 3 years after Fire From Burning but there have been a few changes with the songwriting developing from being primarily alt-country influenced into having a more early 70’s-L.A. Singer/Songwriter feel. It really comes out in the opening tune and first single Wildcats but also in City Lights and Luxury Liner. You can still hear a strong country influence in Swinging but the rest of the album has a stronger base in rock/pop. However, if you just love a great song, then you’ve got nine fine examples right here. An exceptionally beautiful album!! by Crispi – The Breakfast Spread


RHYTHMS MAGAZINE  July 2014 by Samuel J. Fell

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Tracy McNeil – Nobody Ever Leaves

Vitamin Records (Americana/pop)

Canadian-born Melbournian Tracy McNeil has been a Rhythms favourite for some time. Her sets at the Mullum Music Festival in 2012 were highlights for me, and since then, I’ve been awaiting her second ‘solo’ record with much anticipation. Her debut, Fire From Burning (2011) was great, as were her contributions to the one and only Fireside Bellows record with Jordie Lane (2008), but seeing the evolution she exhibited in Mullum had me thinking there was something special afoot for record number two.

Nobody Ever Leaves is a gem. The intervening time has seen McNeil grow as both a musician and songwriter, it’s seen her keen to branch out musically, it’s seen her become what I suspected all along – McNeil is a huge talent, an artist destined to make some long-overdue waves on the Australian Americana scene – this record will make sure of that.

“I feel like I’m writing more like I was when I was 21,” says the now 40-year-old McNeil, “when I wasn’t trying to write for a genre. I’m just writing. I kinda feel like I’ve come full circle a bit, to when I first started writing songs. It’s kinda weird, and ironically, I’m [also] coming back to the music I listened to as a kid, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, that west coast sound, and I’m into Dawes right now, who are doing that sound.”

McNeil says she wrote the majority of the songs on the record while driving in her car, something that seemed to free her up as a songwriter. “Yeah, it was a lot freer because I was writing without an instrument in my hand, just singing, and then I’d go and work it out, which chords etc. But they’re the same chords, just in different configurations, but the melodies are a lot poppier because of that freedom, I guess.”

The record is very much rooted in the Americana for which McNeil has become known, but it carries with it the aforementioned pop edge. A stellar example is opener, ‘Wildcats’. It’s a gorgeous, warm, flowing song – it’s country music, but melodically it’s more lighthearted and bouncy, playfully teasing the darker edges it still possesses, an unlikely marriage perhaps, but one which works extraordinarily well. A contender for Song of the Year.

Another highlight of Nobody Ever Leaves is McNeil’s band, The Goodlife. Spearheaded by guitarists Luke Sinclair (Raised By Eagles, and also McNeil’s husband) and the indisputably solid Matty Green (along with slick rhythm section Rod Boothroyd on bass and Bree Hartley drumming), it’s a band which intertwines itself around McNeil’s songs and lifts them up to where they need to be – even higher, if such a thing were possible.

“Well, all of a sudden, I’ve got five people who can really sing, and that was a big thing, trying to get all those harmonies,” McNeil says of the group, one which has undergone a few lineup changes over the past couple of years. “And they all come up with their own parts. We’ll talk about where we want the song to lift… but I don’t really, with the band, direct what they’re gonna play very often. It’s like, ‘You do what you do, because you’re gonna make it sound awesome’. I’m really lucky because they’re all such talented dudes, and they’ve got such great taste.”

Great taste indeed – they’re playing on Tracy McNeil’s album, a record which showcases a slew of serious talent. “I just wanted to make a great record, we all did,” she says. “I wanted to fully realise every song, and I wanted to take risks, in terms of production. I wanted to make an album that was fun, I wanted to have some songs that were fun and the way to do that is not limiting yourself to what to put on it, or how you’re going to go about it. So I think I just wanted to be free to create whatever it was we were gonna make. I wanted it to be great.”

Nobody Ever Leaves is great. It’s an immense record which showcases the talent of a rising roots music star. Tracy McNeil has arrived.


THE AGE / SYDNEY MORNING HERALD by Michael Dwyer

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TRACY MCNEIL’S CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Mums and Dads totally get rock’n’roll obsession these days. Actually, some of them are kind of to blame. Tracy McNeil remembers music – mostly the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, that West Coast Californian vibe – being so crucial to her parents when she was growing up on Lake Erie in southern Ontario that it ultimately split them in two. “Mom was in Dad’s first band,’’ she says. ‘‘It was called Fargo, when they split up. Country band. Some originals, some covers. They had a massive black truck and they just toured the States for months on end, playing four nights a week. And making a living! It was different then.’’ Sometime in the mid ’70s, not long after Tracy came along, her mother decided to hang up her guitar. ‘‘She said to my dad, ‘Just make yourself happy. Go make music. I’ll be fine. See you later’.’’

Wayne McNeil still makes music, although it’s many decades since Fargo’s one and only vinyl 45, Shady Rest Hotel, and Tripping On the Run. Mary Lou Minor is still recording too, to some acclaim, at her new partner’s studio back in Port Colborne. Her new album is called I Won’t Miss You. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, their daughter is about to launch her third album with a new rock-country outfit, the GoodLife. Married to Melbourne guitarist Luke Sinclair and a stepmother to boot, this is where she belongs now. But the title of her record, Nobody Ever Leaves, is layers deep in meaning.

‘‘You never leave in your heart,’’ she says, the odd Aussie vowel still no match for her Canadian accent. ‘‘It comes into a lot of the writing. Longing for something you can’t have.’’ So ‘‘you settle for the warmth of a memory’’, as one line from the album puts it. And you find yourself strumming your father’s old ’68 Gibson Hummingbird and singing the unmistakeable west coast Californian harmonies of a cherished time and place.

‘‘I’m guilty of it,’’ McNeil says. ‘‘I love it and I have been watching a lot of old Fleetwood Mac footage.  I listened to them a lot as a kid. I wasn’t thinking about genre but that’s how it came out. I think it’s because I’m fusing country with pop. ‘‘I was writing a lot of songs in the car, without my guitar, driving to work, singing into my phone. The melody lines are freer that way, much more explosive.’’

The day job as a drama, dance and music business teacher at a Williamstown High School is the anchor that Mary Lou advised before her daughter left Canada eight years ago. McNeil had studied dance in Montreal and worked as a dancer and choreographer for 10 years, until her body and bank balance conspired to set a new course. ‘‘Dance is hard,’’ she said. ‘‘Music’s more chilled. Let’s do that.’’ Melbourne turned out to be as ‘‘warm and beautiful’’ as it looked from Montreal, even if the DipEd cost her 15 grand. The instant teaching job cemented her fate, for now at least, on this side of the planet, and she released her first album here in 2008: Fireside Bellows was a duo with another promising country-pop songwriter, Jordie Lane.

Fire From Burning fulfilled Tracy McNeil’s promise three years ago. It was an album born of separation and sometimes bitter experience with a worldliness and sincerity that made a commanding splash among that year’s local roots releases. The edges are rounder and warmer on Nobody Ever Leaves, though the long-distance reflection of a tune like Luxury Liner weighs no less heavily on the heart. ‘‘It’s about this guilt I feel sometimes, like I’m living the good life when maybe I should be getting on a plane and going back and spending some time,’’ she says. ‘‘Snow still makes its way into the songs.’’

Her father ‘‘went through cancer last year’’, she reveals. ‘‘He’s come out the other side shining. He’s loving life and everything is great but he’s still not well enough to come over here.’’ Besides, he has that album to make with his old pal from Fargo. See? Nobody ever leaves. But what does he make of hers? ‘‘He’s heard Wildcats. And he saw the video. He said, ‘You need to send me the lyrics! I can’t work it out. What, are you angry?’ The little bits he heard, he loved. He’s proud.’’

Even before this album’s east coast launch run, McNeil’s next recording project is already on the drawing board. Bell Street Delays is a duo with her husband, long one of her greatest admirers. ‘‘Tracy is so driven,’’ he told The Age last August. ‘‘She knows what she’s doing and where she’s going.’’ She has to think about that. ‘‘I’m driven. I know I’m driven. But actually, I’m not sure exactly where I’ll end up. It’s a long road and there’s a lot of people on it.’’

Tracy McNeil and the GoodLife launch Nobody Ever Leaves at Northcote Social Club on June 28.


THE BRAG by Patrick Emery

INDIE ALBUM OF THE WEEK

“I’m a fan of country music,” declared Mary Gauthier at a gig in Melbourne some years ago, “before they fucked it all up.” Gauthier’s assessment of the quality of country music genre was as astute as it was profane: there’s good country, and shit country, and sometimes the turgid dross obscures the brilliant material that led country out of the backblocks of the US and into mainstream consciousness.

– See more at: http://www.thebrag.com/music/tracy-mcneil-nobody-ever-leaves#sthash.BbdOSkeX.dpuf

INDIE ALBUM OF THE WEEK

“I’m a fan of country music,” declared Mary Gauthier at a gig in Melbourne some years ago, “before they fucked it all up.” Gauthier’s assessment of the quality of country music genre was as astute as it was profane: there’s good country, and shit country, and sometimes the turgid dross obscures the brilliant material that led country out of the backblocks of the US and into mainstream consciousness.

Tracy McNeil has one foot safely planted in good country music; her new record, Nobody Ever Leaves, has the other foot swirling around in southern rock territory and a firm grip on a denim-clad pop sensibility. You can hear it all in the opening track, ‘Wildcats’, while the subtle elegance of ‘City Lights’is Fleetwood Mac without the coked-out self-indulgence. ‘Swinging’is the honest singer-songwriter country track for anyone who’s ever pondered the excellence of Lucinda Williams; ‘Sleep In Your Eye’slugs back a few glasses of bourbon and rides the resulting wave of Dutch courage with Californian rock abandon. And finally there’s ‘A Little More Like Love’, a touching love song for this and probably any age.

If you’re a fan of good music, Nobody Ever Leaves is for you. If you’re not, then you’re on your own.

4/5.

– See more at: http://www.thebrag.com/music/tracy-mcneil-nobody-ever-leaves#sthash.BbdOSkeX.dpuf

INDIE ALBUM OF THE WEEK

“I’m a fan of country music,” declared Mary Gauthier at a gig in Melbourne some years ago, “before they fucked it all up.” Gauthier’s assessment of the quality of country music genre was as astute as it was profane: there’s good country, and shit country, and sometimes the turgid dross obscures the brilliant material that led country out of the backblocks of the US and into mainstream consciousness.

Tracy McNeil has one foot safely planted in good country music; her new record, Nobody Ever Leaves, has the other foot swirling around in southern rock territory and a firm grip on a denim-clad pop sensibility. You can hear it all in the opening track, ‘Wildcats’, while the subtle elegance of ‘City Lights’is Fleetwood Mac without the coked-out self-indulgence. ‘Swinging’is the honest singer-songwriter country track for anyone who’s ever pondered the excellence of Lucinda Williams; ‘Sleep In Your Eye’slugs back a few glasses of bourbon and rides the resulting wave of Dutch courage with Californian rock abandon. And finally there’s ‘A Little More Like Love’, a touching love song for this and probably any age.

If you’re a fan of good music, Nobody Ever Leaves is for you. If you’re not, then you’re on your own.

4/5.

– See more at: http://www.thebrag.com/music/tracy-mcneil-nobody-ever-leaves#sthash.BbdOSkeX.dpuf



  INDIE ALBUM OF THE WEEKbrag_logo_190w

**** (4 stars)

“I’m a fan of country music,” declared Mary Gauthier at a gig in Melbourne some years ago, “before they fucked it all up.” Gauthier’s assessment of the quality of country music genre was as astute as it was profane: there’s good country, and shit country, and sometimes the turgid dross obscures the brilliant material that led country out of the backblocks of the US and into mainstream consciousness.

Tracy McNeil has one foot safely planted in good country music; her new record, Nobody Ever Leaves, has the other foot swirling around in southern rock territory and a firm grip on a denim-clad pop sensibility. You can hear it all in the opening track, ‘Wildcats’, while the subtle elegance of ‘City Lights’ is Fleetwood Mac without the coked-out self-indulgence. ‘Swinging’ is the honest singer-songwriter country track for anyone who’s ever pondered the excellence of Lucinda Williams; ‘Sleep In Your Eye’ slugs back a few glasses of bourbon and rides the resulting wave of Dutch courage with Californian rock abandon. And finally there’s ‘A Little More Like Love’, a touching love song for this and probably any age.

If you’re a fan of good music, Nobody Ever Leaves is for you. If you’re not, then you’re on your own.


THE MUSIC by Chris Familton

tmlogo***1/2 (3.5 stars)

Until recently there’s been something of a divide between pop-country and alt-country, but now they seem to be finding common ground more often. Tracy McNeil finds gold by mining the tried and true washes of guitar distortion, twang and tremolo that characterise melancholic Americana with added melodic riches. A Little More Like Love is a swaying slow-burner while Wildcats overflows with hooks and a gloriously chiming guitars. Neko Case and Jenny Lewis are two songwriters that do pop-leaning alt-country so well and in its best moments Nobody Ever Leaves breathes the same rarified air.


THE ORANGE PRESS by Lauren Duiker

ImageProxy12‘Wildcats’ sees a stronger presence of pop hooks than Tracy McNeil’s previous releases but still carries the hallmark alt country sounds in a beautifully crafted and catchy tune. The bass and drums drive the song alongside Tracy’s strong and slightly gritty vocal speaking to reflections on time.  ‘Wildcat’s’ is a catchy combination of country roots and pop-fuelled choruses that will be sure to take some listeners into sing a long territory.

Read more on Tracy McNeil and stay up to date on news regarding the impending release of her third full-length Album Nobody Ever Leaves in early 2014 on Vitamin Records.


TIMBER AND STEEL

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.23.14 PMCanadian born, Melbourne based alt-country singer Tracy McNeil has just released her brand new single ‘Wildcats’ and it’s pretty neat. At first there’s a very “New Slang” vibe to the track but as soon as McNeil’s vocals kick in you know this is going to be far rockier than anything The Shins have produced.


TONEDEAF – MIX TAPE #122

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.25.19 PMTaken from her soon to be released album Nobody Ever Leaves ‘Wildcats’ is a country-infused rock ‘n’ roll tune that brings some much needed locality to this mixtape. Recorded and mixed right in Brunswick, the tune follows a classic rock song structure, what sets the tune apart is McNeil’s amazingly hypnotic vocals which are supported by harmonies from her bandmates. A great listen.


THE AGE July 2012 by Bernard Zuel

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.30.46 PMEasy listening and middle of the road are not what they used to be, as a new generation embraces sounds from the ’70s.

Tracy McNeil – Fire From Burning (Vitamin)

Canadian living in Melbourne with an impure voice but an optimistic heart, and songs that lie closer to Lucinda Williams’ country rock than the Eagles’ version.


UNPAVED March 2012 by Kate Hatch

cropped-unpavedSMALL1Tracy McNeil’s second solo album, Fire from Burning, was released in June 2011, before Unpaved came into the world. While were still in the early days of 2012 and have a year of Tracy McNeil shows before us (including Unpaved’s Great Albums Showcase on 31 March), it seemed like a good time to write this review.

For those of you who dont know Tracy McNeil, a bit of background: McNeil is a Melbournian country musician who hails from Canada, where she recorded her debut album in 2006, Room Where She Lives. After moving to Australia she teamed up with Jordie Lane to form the duo Fireside Bellows, resulting in the melodic folk album No Time to Die in 2008.

Her latest solo album, Fire from Burning, was met with critical praise and it’s easy to see why. It’s a very confident album: eloquent, beautifully sung, lushly produced and full of catchy hooks.Thanks to these qualities, it’s a pleasure to listen to from the first play, although it does take a while to really drill down into. A lot of McNeil’s songs are quite wordy and take several listens to really get to know. This isn’t a criticism; McNeil writes well in this mode and leaves nothing underdone.

If you do take the time to spin this record more than once, you’ll be rewarded with an album full of stand-alone songs that are recognisably the work of a distinctly individual voice. An impressive sense of moral certainty and directness seems to run through McNeil’s music, from clear-eyed assessments of various crossroads, to songs about the exhilaration of infatuation, the weariness of relationship breakdown and the beauty of loving long and well. This impression is helped by McNeil’s voice, which is strong and womanly in the way that some country voices are. It’s refreshing to hear a singer who isn’t angling for whimsical or ethereal.

Musically, Fire from Burning has a few playful genre romps (‘Melody Breakers’, ‘Rise and Fall’ and the irrepressible ‘To Spend A Day’), but most of the album has an atmospheric country-rock sound. I was searching for comparisons, and Canadian singer Kathleen Edwards is the closest example I could think of. The musicians and arrangement make for an album that is beautifully full-bodied. Guitarist Matt Green has some great solos and McNeil’s long list of guest musicians and the rest of her band contribute between them mandolin, pedal steel, fiddle, Hammond organ, banjo, cello and more.

My favourite tracks: the slow-building call to action of ‘High Horse’; the simple storytelling of ‘Ride Home’ and the bitterly earned but tightly held wisdom of the kiss-off ‘Better Thing’.


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD Dec 2011

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.27.04 PMA Record Year. From beginning to end, 2011 delivered the goods, writes Bernard Zuel. It’s been a great year for music. Unequivocally. Categorically.

This has been one of those rare 12-month periods when album after album has thrilled – from new artists and old artists, surprising artists and both locals and pesky foreigners.

Look at the albums that come close but don’t win their categories below – some of them would win the Metro M Award for Album of the Year in just about any other year.

We’re only just into the decade but there’s no doubt at least two or three, and probably more, of this year’s releases will be defining albums when someone comes to do the pick of the ”teens” in whatever passes for media in 2020.

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM

Candidates The experienced Emmylou Harris (Hard Bargain) dug into loss and bittersweet memories, the far younger Lindi Ortega (Little Red Boots) and Tracy McNeil (Fire from Burning) wrote quality and sang delightfully while Sal Kimber (Sal Kimber & the Rollin’ Wheel) and latecomer to country Shane Nicholson (Bad Machines) moved you and made you laugh respectively. And how good was the new Ryan Adams (Ashes & Fire)?


MYSTERY TRAIN Dec 30, 2011 by Mary Cannon Bay FM 99.9

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Live Performance of the Year @ MULLUM MUSIC FESTIVAL:  Tracy McNeil Band


RHYTHMS MAGAZINE  Jan 2012

Rhythms-LogoReviews: Live – Mullum Music Festival, Mullumbimby NSW, Nov 24 – 27, 2011. Rhythms was honoured to sponsor (or maybe host is a better word) the Bowlo stage at this year’s Mullum Fest…Other highlights from yours truly this year came from Tracy McNeil, who has gathered an imposing band, including riff-meister Matt Green on guitar, and whose voice is maturing pleasingly… Martin Jones

In the course of my hard work meeting and greeting at the Rhythms Stage at the Bowlo this year I saw a plethora of fine music, which isn’t surprising given Mullum Fest already has a reputation for quality, but this year topped all, in my humble estimation. I agree with Editor Martin Jones in highlighting Tracy McNeil and band and Ray Bonneville’s union with Chris Parkinson and BJ Barker… Samuel J. Fell


TRIP MAGAZINE Dec 2011 Triple R FM (102.7FM)

tripleR_logoNeil Rogers, The Australian Mood, Thursdays 8-10pm This year has seen a stack of great Australian albums being released – so much so I couldn’t do anything less than a Top 30! Therefore, I thought I would compile a different list: 10 albums that may have fallen through the cracks that I think are worthy of a revisit:

Tracy McNeil – Fire From Burning A wonderful collection of folk based tunes from a great singer-songwriter.


RHYTHMS MAGAZINE May 2011 by Martin Jones

Rhythms-LogoThe first most of us heard of Canadian singer-songwriter Tracy McNeil was as one half of Fireside Bellows. Jordie Lane recognised the talent and integrity in Tracy’s music when he discovered her soon after she moved to Melbourne in 2007 and their No Time To Die record was a thing of welcome beauty conjuring echoes of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Since then both Lane and McNeil have returned to their solo ventures, the latter gathering herself a band – guitarist Matt Green, drummer Bree Hartley and bass player Rod Boothroyd – to help her work up, tour and record new material. The result is a more robust proposition than Fireside Bellows, the electric band lending McNeil’s music grit and muscle, and her voice emerging all the stronger with such backing. Add to that some tasty input from the likes of pedal steel guru Garrett Costigan, Steve Hesketh on Hammond organ, Liz Stringer on banjo and cello, and Greg Field on fiddle. There’s conviction in every note that McNeil sings, and that’s the first thing you hear on Fire From Burning. Then you begin to notice the more subtle qualities – the tone and touch of the playing, the craft of McNeil’s songwriting, the lyrical integrity, the emotive push and pull of the combined elements.

Her songs ring with the kind of universal authority that lends them weight and gives the impression that McNeil is raiding some lost American troubadour songbook. To hear a trio of songs like ‘Uncharted Ground’, ‘Ride Home’ and ‘In My Time’ all in a row causes you to doublecheck their origins. Yes, all written and sung by Tracy McNeil.


MAG (Music Australia Guide) June 2011 by Denise Hylands

**** (4 stars)

Since moving to Melbourne from Canada four years ago, McNeil has settled nicely into the local scene. She is one half of Fireside Bellows – a magnificent duo with Jordie Lane. – who have released one album. She arrived with a stunning debut album Room Where She Lives and I’ve been impatiently awaiting follow-up. McNeil is a gifted songwriter who demands attention with her up-front, strong, clear voice. The musicianship highlights the talents of multi-instrumentalist Matt Green and a cast of McNeil’s peers. Gorgeous.


SYDNEY MORNING HERALD by Bernard Zuel

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**** (4 stars)

The sad truth for Tracy McNeil, a Canadian in Melbourne, is she can’t get arrested for playing this music in Australia, as good as it is. Even in Britain and Europe there’s support for quality music that draws from strong roots in country and rock; story telling music that pulls you in with its melodies, keeps you interested with its yarns and brings you back with its emotional tug, the way McNeil does splendidly. Here, however, from radio and reviewers to bookers and the Australian music Prize, this music is dismissed as too traditional, lacking this year’s sounds, not pretty enough or too grown up. Ask former Sydney-sider Bek-Jean Stewart and Liz Stringer who made two of the best albums of last year and were widely ignored, and Perry Keyes and Jamie Hutchings, who did the same. And, yes, that does include the heart of so-called country locally – have you heard the dull fair they play on Saturday Night Country? Meanwhile, McNeil’s album doesn’t strike a false note across it’s 11 songs, which all feel carefully constructed and irresistibly human. She’s got a voice just rugged enough to supply the guts but not yet worn out of it’s reservoirs of optimism. ‘High Horse’ opens the record with an almost stern face but hands caught wanting to touch; ‘To Spend A Day’ sounds bright but spits out lines such as “And I’d call it quits if I gave a shit” and ‘Ride Home’ holds close. You know, you don’t have to wait ‘til she moves back to Canada to buy this.


CHERRIE MAGAZINE by Jenny O’Keefe (PBS 106.7FM)

A fine follow-up to Tracy’s first album Room Where She Lives, Fire From Burning is a great exploration of country-roots music from this Canadian turned Melbourne local. Warm and sad vocals are the centerpiece of a collection of beautifully crafted lyrics, with excellent collaborations from a plethora of local artists.


INPRESS June 2011 by Samuel J. Fell

c3005a_ass1_inpresstrace_em-e1358591673612In 2007, Canadian Tracy McNeil released her debut solo record, Room Where She Lives, and then, three days later, relocated to Melbourne. She brought the record with her, of course, and it garnered a small amount of community radio play, not really raising too much of a blip on the extensive radar that busily covers the Melbourne music scene. The following year, though, McNeil teamed up with Jordie Lane to form Fireside Bellows, releasing the sublime No Time To Die, and her name began to spread. Now, three years later and with a swag of touring under her belt, we have McNeil’s second solo record, Fire From Burning, a record that has been some time in the making and one that sees some distinct differences as to how you’d have heard McNeil in the past. Room Where She Lives and No Time To Die were heavily drenched in that quiet country sound, lilting and wispy, pulling on heartstrings while stroking heads by firesides, whereas this new record is muscular and robust. It’s McNeil taking the same thread, but bulking it out and injecting a bit of rock in there, and this is a fine thing indeed. The title track is a great example of this, a song that rolls and tumbles with a finely executed, and quite raucous, guitar solo in the middle courtesy of Matt Green (who also plays with Lane), a song which coming as it does almost right at the beginning of the record, heralds something slightly out of the box for this budding and extremely talented artist. The rest of the album closes in around the title track, some slower numbers, some faster, but all to a tee stout and full of alt country bravado and wisdom, a fantastic record from a musician only moving upward.


THE AGE by Michael Dwyer

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.30.46 PM

***1/2 (3.5 stars)

There’s nothing sweet about Tracy McNeil. The little girl on the cover is all party frock and reverie but bitter experience has planted a flinty edge in her voice and an eloquent line of defence around her heart. Her country twang finds a gritty pitch in the hardscrabble likes of ‘High Horse’, ‘Rise and Fall’ and the title track, each worldly enough t take a new perspective on the eternal traumas of deceit and disappointment. “Gone are the days when love was just a one-act play,” she reminds her long-distance suitor in ‘To Spend A Day’. Even the slow and lovely ‘Only Road’ swings to the rhythm of “lovers hitched at the neck with no room to move”. The toughness makes the cracks more tender, especially when her “knees give in to God” in the watershed of ‘In My Time’. Whether rocking a mandolin, fiddle or extended electric guitar solo, her band makes no attempt to upstage McNeil’s gift for the potent turn of phrase in a landscape of endless rain and recrimination.


UPSTREAM WHISPERS by Marlo Spikin

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.56.28 PMThere is an expression: the great miracle of wood is not that it burns, but that it floats. Tracy McNeil’s new album Fire From Burning floats. It soars. With full knowing of the precious life that can burn and be dark and vulnerable, and the exhilaration of living it daringly anyway. The title song brings to light for us: “You say you were on the ship that sailed
 The seven seas that took you to nowhere 
And you should’ve walked the plank 
With a belly full of drink 
And waved farewell to all those who stared” This is McNeil’s first album created with her family of Melbourne musicians, after her acclaimed debut Room Where She Lives, made in 2007 in her homeland Canada. And Fire From Burning is again such a rich and rewarding experience. Immediately captivating, McNeil’s story-telling whisks you up to fly with her into the break of night. Her voice is defiant within the driving rhythms of ‘Rise and Fall’, an album highlight: “Beauty and its end float in mid air
, Side by side till the night winds wail” Her honesty and bravery are palpable in a contrasting highlight, ‘Unchartered Ground’, where her guitar intermingles with guest musician Stephen Hesketh’s Hammond Organ with spine-tingling effect. And you will rise with her again: “And I’d rather fly
To the depth of the darkest and saddest of skies
Where there’s no end to the night
 And I camp by your memories light” It’s McNeil’s realness and integrity that make us fly with her. And she whisks you away with glee into the day too with the spectacular ‘To Spend A Day’. This track is rollicking, with contributions by Garrett Costigan on pedal steel and Luke Sinclair’s backing vocals adding to her winning warmth. On the living and learning tale ‘Melody Breakers’ Greg Field’s violin and Liz Stringer’s banjo collaborate with band members’ Rod Boothroyd’s slapping double bass and Bree Hartley’s pulsing drums with rousing effect. A lingering gift within Fire From Burning is McNeil’s wisdom and generosity. She is unafraid to give implicit advice in the opening track ‘High Horse’ which eases you in with its stunning and gentle intro highlighting Hesketh’s harmonium and Matt Green’s guitar sensibilities. In the sincere ‘In My Time’ and the raw ‘Only Road’ she inspires us with her patient, yet vulnerable, heart: “I’ll take you with me when I go 
But I’m gonna go slow”. Wisdom and inspiration are embodied in yet another album highlight, ‘Whippoorwill’. A northern American legend says the Whippoorwill bird can sense a soul departing, and can capture it as it flees. And the Whippoorwill possesses a haunting, ethereal song. McNeil gives us oh so exquisitely and knowingly: “There go the sound of the Whippoorwill fading fast 
I hope it don’t tell no lies
 Spreading the word of who is who and who will leave
 Best thing going right now.
 Cause nothing’s built to last or stay…
So you shuffle your feet to pay for the fireworks display” Live now. Feel the fire burning now. And the most profound fun is to float up with Tracy amongst her fireworks display.


THE AGE June 2011 by Jo Roberts

Bluegrass belle is fulfilling a burning desire

In her new album, Tracy McNeil branches out from her country roots.

In 2007, Tracy McNeil decided to travel from her home in Canada to study in Melbourne. Her plan in a nutshell: ”Ten months. Come over here, do the degree, turn around and come back.”

The trained dancer and choreographer had had enough of trying to scrape together a living from her profession, as she studied and worked in Vancouver, Montreal and her home town Toronto. She worked several jobs while also dancing up to eight hours a day, to fund her own dance works and to pay dancers. ”I was 27, [going to] Montreal for four years and it was struggletown,” recalls McNeil, now 37. ”Dance is a hard field, it’s harder than music. Contemporary dance [is] grant application after grant application. ”I was sick of struggling financially, I thought f— it, I’ve got to go back and get that second degree.”

With friends traveling to Australia, she decided to kill two birds with one stone: fulfill her desire to travel and qualify to teach dance. Four years later, McNeil is still here. To paraphrase John Lennon, life happened to her plans. She is now a dance and drama teacher in a Melbourne secondary school by day, and by night is carving out a new career in music.

While in Montreal, McNeil began going to bluegrass gigs. It was somehow inevitable, growing up with both parents as country music fans; her father was a professional country player for years. ”I’d always done music but I was always a closet writer, never wanting to show anyone what I’d written,” McNeil says. ”I was terrified to use my voice as a tool for expression.”

But as her love of music grew, so did the realisation that something had to give.

”To keep that lifestyle up you’re not going to go out to bluegrass nights until two in the morning and then get up the next day and train,” she says. ”They don’t work together, they’re different worlds.” She did her first open-mic stint the night before she left Montreal. Then she went home to Toronto for nine months, where she continued to answer her new calling, playing gigs and recording her first album, Room Where She Lives, comprising country songs she wrote during her time in Montreal.

It became her calling card when she arrived in Melbourne. Studying by day, by night McNeil began seeking out like-minded musicians to play with, seeing gigs by the likes of Redfish Bluegrass, Downhills Home, the Idle Hoes and Jordie Lane. With Lane she formed the duo Fireside Bellows and first came to the attention of many music fans here with their gorgeous 2008 album No Time to Die.

McNeil suspects it will be the first and last release by Fireside Bellows, as both she and Lane have continued to forge solo careers. In 2009 Lane released his excellent solo debut, Sleeping Patterns, and is soon to release a follow-up. Meanwhile, McNeil is releasing her new album, Fire from Burning, which she is launching this weekend with a stellar cast of album guests including Suzannah Espie, Stevie Hesketh, Van Walker and Liz Stringer.

The album is a departure from her debut and Fireside Bellows, as she veers away from more traditional country and experiments with more pop and rock influences. ”I think I wanted to explore a few different things and not be so [pigeonholed] into a category,” she says. ”I’m just trying to branch out but stay rooted in country.”

The title track, for instance, features a shredding guitar solo from Matt Green. ”He just rips it,” McNeil says with a grin. ”I think I was the most excited about that song. I felt it was a new direction and I’d kind of wanted to rock out a bit more.”

For those who like their country softer, McNeil has written some quieter, beautiful numbers (enhanced by the sublime pedal steel of Garrett Costigan), such as ‘In My Time’, a song written about her parents meeting at a dance in the ’50s, and ‘Only Road’, a song she wrote about Melbourne muso – and the man she will marry next month back home in Toronto – Luke Sinclair of the Idle Hoes. ”That song, it’s about being a bit more cautious, about not rushing in … that said, we were engaged in a year,” she says with a laugh.

A broader Australian tour to promote Fire from Burning is on hold until McNeil’s return in September. But with 24 Australians going over for the wedding, she has a Toronto album launch planned three days after her nuptials.

She may now have more ties to Melbourne but, musically, McNeil also feels Melbourne is the place to be ahead of Toronto. ”It’s just me personally but I just reckon Melbourne’s got it all over [Toronto],” she says. ”It’s not because it’s new to me, I’ve been here five years now, but from the moment I heard these bands I thought, ‘This is awesome, I want to be where this music is’.”

Tracy McNeil launches Fire from Burning Saturday, June 10 at Bella Union, Level 1, Trades Hall, corner of Lygon and Victoria streets, Carlton. She also plays today at Basement Discs, Block Place, at 12.45pm.