Sunday, March 9, 2008

Trying my hand at a music review

**Disclaimer: While my blog is first and foremost a food blog, involving anything and everything food-related, I’ve decided to branch out a bit. Now if you’re only here for the foodie goods, don’t go freaking out on me or anything! I’m just branching out a teensy-weensy bit, and as you’ll notice in my new blog tagline, it will still be 97% food stuff. But here’s the thing, sometimes I get a creative dialogue going on in head and what’s a girl to do if she can’t get out all those creative juices?! All that being said, here goes…

Every so often, I come across a singer or band that I just can’t get enough of. The kind of music that’s just intoxicating, the kind I can listen to over and over again and still not have even the slightest inkling of it ever growing old on me. The kind of music that I just want to shout about from the rooftops…the kind of music that is just. damn. good.

Well I came across just such a singer recently named James Morrison. I was first introduced to him on the “Today Show” about a year ago and though I wasn’t blown-away by him, my first impression was that this guy definitely possessed talent. A few months later, his CD caught my eye at the listening station in one of the Virgin Record Stores and I was able to get a better taste of his music. Then I officially took the plunge and bought his debut album, “Undiscovered,” with my birthday money last September. And while I was already a committed fan once I bought his album, I never really grasped the depth of James Morrison’s raw talent until I recently took a weekend trip with my 4 year old. Sometimes I just need a time of actually sitting down and listening an album from beginning to end, drinking in every word and note of it, before I can truly appreciate it for all that it is. And a desperate desire to break up the monotony of a drive to Iowa is the perfect motivation to listen to an album from beginning to end!

In all the reviews I’ve read on this 22 year old Brit, the language used to describe James Morrison’s style almost always included words like: raw, gritty, and soulful. His music is certainly raw, meaning that there’s no bells and whistles added to it. And though over half the songs on his blues-driven album have a lot of extra instrumentation on them (strings, great use of piano and Rhodes keyboards), they don’t sound “over-produced.” As far as gritty goes, one might think he’s forcing his singing voice to give it that gravelly-sounding edge, but that is not the case. His signature, raspy voice was the result of having whooping cough as a baby (sucks, but it certainly has worked to his advantage now!). And soulful? Oh yeah, baby, his style is most certainly soulful! My husband said this of James Morrison: "He's kind of reminds me of Joe Cocker. Except without all the drugs and alcohol and schizophrenic body jerking." Morrison sings with a raw emotion that's refreshing to my soul and rare to hear in most popular music today.

I’ve been pondering lately why I seem to be so drawn to soul and blues-influenced music. Some of my other favorite artists, like Patti Griffin and Lori McKenna, have obvious roots in these genres, too. And it’s no coincidence that both Patti Griffin and Lori McKenna, like James Morrison, have been described as raw and gritty. Here’s the thing: when I listen to music, I want the real deal. I don’t want to hear a bunch of poppy-crap with predictable, rhyming lyrics. There’s just something about the blues that begs its listeners to feel. I guess it makes sense since the blues originated in just that—a singer pouring out the very core of their emotions through music. And being the feeler that I am, a most-definite “F” on the Myer-Briggs personality test, perhaps I can best relate to music that wears its emotions on its sleeve. There’s no false pretenses, no fairy tales… just real life.

So please, won’t you take a listen to a live clip of James Morrison singing “Better Man?” And I dare you to tell me that you weren’t moved after listening to this song, in its entirety!!

And if you're still not convinced, here’s another one of my favorites from his album, entitled “Call the Police.” Whoa, some chick must’ve really messed with his head for him to be able to write this song!

Check out even more on James Morrison at his myspace page. So there you have it. Go out and buy his album right this minute. Hey! What are you still doing in front of your computer? Go. Right. Now!


Mickey said...

Love it! I loved both of the songs, actually. I had heard of James Morrison, but never really knew who he was. But I am a fan now, too. Your description of liking soulful, bluesy, "raw," and "real" music is similar to the same reasons your father and I see almost nothing but indie movies anymore---they are movies containing little or nothing in the way of special effects, are different and interesting, with scripts and stories about REAL people. Or I should say, they are about people and keeping it all real, as in, "the people, the acting, the script writing, and the stories" in the movie are more important than anything else. And music this same way is very cool too. For all these same reasons is partly why there has been a resurgence of the popularity of folk music in recent years--music lovers are glad to hear singers telling real stories, mostly accoustically, and the songs, whether old or new, aren't "glitzed up"--they're the "real deal."

I'm gonna look up more from James Morrison!

Sarah said...

Thanks, Mom! Yes, Dave and I agree about also wanting to see movies that are "real," rather than some Hollywood-esque facade.

And by the way, I found out recently that James Morrison was in St. Louis right about a year ago, while on tour with his first album. So I'm kicking myself that I didn't know about that! Argh! And, to rub it in just a little more, his show here was at the "Blueberry Hill" restaurant in The Loop, the venue where anyone who is anybody in the music scene performs. It's an incredible venue, very small and intimate, just the kind of place to see a great show. But I've read that's he's currently working on his second album and I hope he'll make it by here a second time for another show.