One of the thrills of discovering marvelous new music is the thought that you just unearthed a secret unknown to everyone else. Such was this reviewer’s experience when hearing James Vincent McMorrow’s CD, "Early in the Morning," for the first time.
Gorgeously wrought and intensely personal, Dublin, Ireland, native McMorrow captures a mood both timeless and fresh in his first full-length recording. Amazingly, every sound heard on the album was produced by McMorrow, from piano to guitar to drums. Not to mention his distinctive and instantly unforgettable vocals. "Early in the Morning" was recorded over a five-month period in an isolated cabin on the Irish coast, and the loneliness of such a setting meanders through each of the 11 tracks, with nary a flat-sounding song in the collection.
Highlights include “Sparrow & the Wolf,” a sly mediation on the perils of love; “We Don’t Eat” (my personal favorite), which poignantly deals with uncertainty in families and in the faith that tenuously sustains them; as well as “This Old Dark Machine” and “If I Had A Boat,” both of which have already been released as singles.
McMorrow sings many of these self-penned lovelies in a gruff falsetto, which adds further punch to his already potent lyrics. Adventurous listeners would be wise (and delighted) to watch the official video of “The Sparrow & the Wolf” on McMorrow’s YouTube channel. Several of his songs have also been featured in such network television programs as "Grey’s Anatomy," "Chuck" and "Parenthood." Apparently he’s not a complete secret after all.
As the CD progresses, the tone grows more mystical, dark and otherwordly. McMorrow mentions on his website that he was attempting to channel his love for authors Roald Dahl, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck into these songs because “they all examine the darker less spoken about aspects of life, solitude, disillusionment. I’m not one for defining a lyric, or what it definitively means, but songs like ‘follow you down to the red oak tree,’ ‘from the woods’ and ‘down the burning ropes’ are certainly me exorcising the underside of my personality. The characters I create in those songs, the ones existing in the shadows, they are all elements of me for sure.”
Music like this is happily impossible to define. Folk? Yes. Acoustic rock? Definitely. Alternative? Delightfully so. Isn’t part of discovering great music a thrill because it doesn’t fit into a single preformed category? McMorrow has a very bright future ahead. This listener and neophyte fan can’t wait to see what comes next in his rapidly blossoming career.
As to family-friendly content, there’s not an offensive word or theme in any of the 11 songs on the CD. All of the lovely lyrics can be found on the artist’s website.
"Early in the Morning" is music far too rich, rough-edged and vibrant to keep a secret.