Morganway first came to my attention earlier this year when they unexpectedly appeared in the RGM inbox. The track in question was ‘Frozen In Our Time’ and my classic rock taste buds were instantly sated as Morganway presented a sound that owed a debt to the likes of Dire Straits (musically) and Fleetwood Mac (vocally) while the addition of fiddle delivered a folky musical curveball. This early positive impression would be further enhanced by subsequent singles and cemented by a really terrific live show at Black Deer Festival. I had a feeling that Morganway might be on to something a little bit special, and I’m pleased to report their debut album doesn’t disappoint.
From the opening bars of ‘My Love Ain’t Gonna Save You’, it’s immediately apparent that the band has taken a straight-ahead approach to capture their live energy in the studio. Callum Morgan and SJ Mortimer’s voices combine beautifully to usher in the tune before Kieran Morgan’s choppy guitar licks accentuate the chorus and effectively glue all the various parts of the song together; throw in a beautifully constructed breakdown, some terrific vocal harmonies and the album is off to a great start. ‘Let Me Go’ is punchier, built around Ed Bullinger’s propulsive drum track and an insistent guitar riff from Kieran - who also finds plenty of room for some neat slide guitar licks - but the star of the show is SJ whose gritty vocal adds an edge that perfectly matches the intensity of the playing. Nicole J Terry’s fiddle comes to the fore on ‘You Can Only Die Once’ adding a nicely judged counterpoint to Kieran’s crunchy guitar parts while the harmonies and the vocal interplay between SJ and Callum are again sublime. On an album with plenty of highlights, ‘You Can Only Die Once’ might just be the cherry on top of the cake. The band switch gears for ‘In A Dream (Coming Home)’ taking a sideways step into bouncy, folky pop territory and they pull it off with aplomb driven on by a pumping bassline and Ed’s drums.
The afore-mentioned ‘Frozen In Our Time’ is up next. Matt Brocklehurst’s keys take centre stage on a track that owes a debt to Dire Straits and Pink Floyd (Kieran’s guitar lines channel David Gilmour) while SJ’s vocal is equal parts angelically smooth and devilishly gritty. Nicole’s fiddle really stands out here, adding a different dimension to the sound while emphasising the strength of the songwriting and the arrangements, which are uniformly superb throughout. Nicole is again to the fore with her playing central to ‘London Life’, which finds the band at their most folk/country/Americana as Callum delivers an impressive vocal, while those harmonies are again to die for. For some bizarre reason when I hear ‘London Life’ it conjures up images of Del Amitri jamming with The Proclaimers; which sounds pretty strange to me, but I can’t get the thought out of my head. As usual, the band makes the vocal harmonies sound so easy and natural, which is surely the result of many hours of hard work honing their sound.
The muscular ‘Hurricane’ is a monster live and the band do well to capture that intensity on tape. SJ absolutely owns ‘Hurricane’ her phrasing and delivery is out of this world - the catch in her voice as she belts out “Hit me like an avalanche” is a real goosebumps moment. ‘New Way’ has a sultry power with Callum delivering an impressive lead vocal aided and abetted by Kieran’s ringing guitar and those, by now, trademark harmonies. Harmonies which when employed on ‘Daylight Rising’ are as good as any you’ll hear anywhere. By the time we get to ‘I See People’, especially after the glorious ‘Daylight Rising’, I’m starting to think Morganway will never run out of terrific songs. ‘I See People’ has the anthemic quality of the very best Big Country / Del Amitri tune awash with ringing guitars, upfront fiddle, pounding drums and perfect vocal harmonies. The album concludes with ‘I Want No Other Love’ which builds slowly to a crescendo of vocals and then, almost as quickly as it arrived it’s gone, cleverly leaving the listener wanting more.
Morganway should be very proud of their debut album. The band have obviously taken a lot of care and invested a lot of time to get things just right. The combination of the personnel involved, the songs and the arrangements has resulted in a debut album of which they can be very proud. The future looks very bright for Morganway.