McNeil Johnwood – “Scarecrow” + “Magical”


Memphis-based artist McNeil Johnwood showcases compelling folk songwriting on two recent track releases, on different sides of the tonal spectrum. “Scarecrow” delivers a fiery political commentary, while “Magical” is a sweetly romantic indie-folk love song. Influenced by artists like Rush and Julien Baker, Johnwood’s music reflects personal struggles and triumphs, marking a bold entry into the music scene after years away (and teenage years as a U.S. Tennis Association Top 10 junior ranked player).

An ominous meshing of haunting acoustics and buzzing synths stir on “Scarecrow,” with eerie lyrical refrains express a sense of skepticism and foreboding. The track is reflective of Johnwood’s views of Donald Trump. “I am independent, but that man is a scarecrow—he’s not who he says he is,” Johnwood says. The “hail hail to the scarecrow,” line feels suggestive of blind following, asking “what has he done?” with stirring concern. Banjo, textural electronic tones, and backing vocal harmonies bolster a riveting production from Johnwood.

Another success, “Magical” pursues a completely different tone. Rather than being a distraught political perspective as in “Scarecrow,” “Magical” captures the beauty of life — and in particular, falling in love. Caressing acoustics and smitten lyrical reflections center around lap steel and dreamy vocal additions. The lyrics capture the first time Johnwood saw his wife. “Being married to her for 35 years is the greatest accomplishment of my life. We have three kids together…I get emotional just talking about it,” Johnwood says. These two tracks are wholly exemplary of Johnwood’s notable talents as a songwriter, both in regard to heart-tugging love songs and political swipes.

These and other tracks featured this month can be streamed on the updating Obscure Sound’s ‘Emerging Singles’ Spotify playlist.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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