Morganway have been making quite the impression on the live circuit in recent months. Such has been the impact of their live performances that their debut album has become highly anticipated. And boy, does it deliver. Covered in countrified Americana, with flecks of folk, bits of the blues, and rock running right through, this is an album that ticks all the boxes. It certainly matches expectations; perhaps, in some ways, it even exceeds them.
It is a hauntingly captivating opening to first track ‘My Love Ain’t Gonna Save You’, before it really kicks in with some low-key rock and a straight-forward chorus line. The addition of the fiddle alongside the electric guitar is a pleasant surprise; an early indication of the kinds of combinations that make Morganway’s music a delightfully unconventional sound. ‘Let Me Go’ is the first real showcase for SJ Mortimer’s powerful vocals. Hers is an impressive performance here alongside Matt Brocklehurst on keys and Ed Bullinger on drums. It slides nicely into the next track, ‘You Can Only Die Once’. This very much fits the mould of country rock, though the band’s folky influence takes off any hard edges.
Their folk-infused sound also brings a lightness of touch to the rather indie-sounding ‘It’s a Dream (Coming Home)’. The addition of the fiddle and Callum Morgan’s vocals are two elements that make this song particularly enjoyable to listen to.
What follows is then the most atmospheric piece on the album, ‘Frozen in Our Time’. This represents a complete key change from what has come before. Very reminiscent of the low and vibrant soundscapes of ‘Wildwood Kin’, it hangs in the air with an understated presence that is nevertheless quietly powerful. The lyrics certainly add to this, with a fascinating quality that recalls the earlier work of ‘Mumford & Sons’. In contrast, the next track, ‘London Life’, is an upbeat, fairly traditional folk number that will cause anyone and everyone to break into a jig. Here, Nicole Terry comes into her own on fiddle, giving a blistering performance on a track that is shot through with joy. It is a song that the mighty ‘Bellowhead’ would have been proud to have written; indeed, Morganway are perhaps the natural heirs to their contemporary folk throne.
‘Hurricane’ does what it says – a tour de force that finds Mortimer, in particular, on top form. Her vocals throughout the album display the kind of emotive power attributed to Adele, mixed with the soulful depth of Elles Bailey. It is certainly true here; though in this case, her voice has been tinged with a rasp and lightly smoked to produce the most blues-soaked track on the album. Such is the potency of ‘Hurricane’ that the slight pause before ‘New Way’ is most welcome. This very modern country song might not have the punch of its precursor but ‘New Way’ is, in its own way, striking, not least in its lyrics. The same could be said for ‘Daylight Rising’, a beautiful, harmony-driven number that is simply magical.
The lovely ‘I See People’ then follows before ‘I Want No Other Love’ nicely rounds off the album. It is a fitting song to end with, bringing the whole thing into land, and coming to rest on one final note which signs things off brilliantly.
This is a really strong debut album from Morganway. The band have produced a record full of energy, that threads so many different elements from various genres together to create a richly textured web of pure musical craftsmanship. Their choice to follow their instincts rather than convention has certainly paid off. Anticipation was high for this album. And it was most definitely well worth the wait.
Review by Gaz Williams