Hearts In Need Of Repair – Sarah Morris (reviewed by Ian O’Regan)

Sarah Morris Hearts In Need Of RepairEvery so often, an album drops on my desk for review accompanied by a sizeable surprise of one kind or another. That some of these albums ever actually see the light of day is never a surprise, sadly. The ever-lower costs of recording and production has a dark side to offset the obvious advantages of no longer being shackled to a purely commercial record company machine, and a lot of that darkness casts deep and depressing shadows over the keyboards of music reviewers the world over.

The surprise in the case of the new release from Sarah Morris, “Hearts In Need Of Repair”, is not that the album is so good. Her first two albums, and in particular the 2015 release “Ordinary Things“, set expectations high for this third collection, and those expectations have been met and exceeded.

The surprise is that the album was fan-funded by a kickstarter campaign, and without any industry backing. I’m pretty astonished, if I’m honest, that “Ordinary Things” didn’t trigger an avalanche of money men wanting to sign her up to contracts of various kinds….. And as I write that, I start to wonder whether Morris had the offers but chose instead to avoid the shackles mentioned previously?

Whatever the reason, the fans who put their hands in their pockets for “Hearts In Need Of Repair” have been richly rewarded. We see the continuing development of a singer-songwriter who has a deep understanding of the structures and cadences of a multitude of genres, from country to folk to pop, married with a subtlety and deftness of touch that makes all that technical understanding sound completely natural and effortless. (Taylor Swift and her subsequent army of cross-over wannabees should take notes.)

Slightly less country than “Ordinary Things”, the songwriting is complimented by a group of accomplished musicians who skip lightly through the spaces between genre rules and stereotypes, and by exceptional production quality that belies the budget available, and that sets the bar yet higher for all “home” produced music.

If ever there was a need for an antidote to the Trump/Brexit/PerfectGiftForChristmas cacophony, it’s now. And if ever there was a perfect antidote, it’s this album. That’s not to suggest for a moment that this is an album only “of its time”. On the contrary, it’ll long outlast all the ills that it cures, and all the abrasions that it soothes.

There are several highlights – Helium, On A Stone, and Confetti to name just three of my favourites – but this album is a delight from top to bottom, and you’ll have your own picks for sure.

The album is available on the usual on-line outlets, or head over to her website at http://www.sarahmorrismusic.com/product/heartscd/ to buy direct (always the best way to buy from self-producing artists). Sadly, you won’t get the home-baked cakes that the $80 kickstarter funders got, but you will get one of the best albums of the year!

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Falling Over –  Sarah Morris (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Part_22Having built a steady momentum and a loyal following via two critically and commercially well received albums, 2015’s Ordinary Things spending 6 months on rotation on the Americana radio charts, Sarah Morris would have to do something pretty drastic for them to turn against her. On the strength of Falling Over, her latest release, Hearts In Need of Repair, offers no such awkward gear change, merely a gentle progression of an already well rounded, worldly and very distinguished sound. If it ain’t broke…

Falling Over sits in just the sort of folk meets country territory which she revels in, a mid paced, lilting song built along simple lines, fine touches of guitar adding delicate detail, but retaining a wonderfully spacious and understated feel that allows her voice to take centre stage. And what a voice it is, never showy or seeking the limelight, just impressive within the requirements of the song and that in itself, in this day and age, is a rare thing. It is that restraint, coupled with the room to breathe that the songwriting affords her that makes her shine so brightly.

Yet again Sarah Morris proves an example of loveliness over cool, apparent effortlessness over forced gimmickry and subtle musical textures over sonic weight. If only more people would adopt such an approach.

Ordinary Things – Sarah Morris (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

400x400bb-85It isn’t easy to write songs filled with poignancy and meaning and not fall into cliché. So many writers confuse reflection with melancholy, love with mawkishness or joyful optimism with cheesy platitude. That is what makes Sarah Morris so great, the ability to explore the full range of emotions without falling into such traps. Her songs remain sharp and full of meaning; she has the ability to deliver lyrical depth wrapped up in accessible lyricism and make music that is full of sass, swing and spirit.

Musically she mixes a Nashville vibe with rootsy pop poise but still manages to run a few darker undercurrents through proceedings just to keep the listener guessing. She seems aware that Music City is more a commercial music genre than a geographical place and whilst tipping her hat to some of its less laboured stylings manages to create her own take on a soulful, country-pop vibe.

Some of the albums finer moments come in the less obvious moments and songs such as You Still Have Me are what you imagine Nora Jones sounding like if she hadn’t have paid her dues in New York or had carried on through the generic door she opened with her breakthrough album, Feels Like Home.

But essentially this is the sound of country music not playing by the rules, eschewing the set in stone traditions and exploring a wider musical pallet. Broad-minded fans of the genre will find much to their tastes but it is the progressive nature and accessibility of the music that will find her an army of fans in less like places.

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