James Patrick Morgan - Art + Work = Love
Few singer/songwriters in recent memory have emerged with the same musicality and confidence James Patrick Morgan shows off on his release Art + Work = Love. This five song collection highlights his sleek yet substantive style in a way that never seems forced or straining for effect. There’s one cover included, Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle”, but even there Morgan manages to carve out his own interpretation of the song that artfully straddles the line between faithfulness to the original and a new way of hearing a bonafide classic. His vocals and songwriting are undoubtedly the stars of the show, but the musical backing has a richness all its own that gives the recordings real urgency and impetus. Art + Work = Love might strike some as a slightly pretentious title, but there’s not a note of premeditation or pretension heard over the course of its running time. Instead, audiences are treated to a young performer throwing everything into his performances and coming up with aces on every hand.
“Expected” is the first winning card in the EP’s hand. It comes out high-stepping and never loses any of its verve along the way. Morgan seems to deliver the lyric with a shrug and smirk, but those qualities never stop him from giving his performance every bit of the same pace and energy level listeners encounter in the arrangement. The biggest musical reasons for the song’s success are the backbeat and churning acoustic guitar running underneath it all. “Alone” succeeds because of its melodic value and persistence. This is another song that never lets up on listeners for long and keeps coming time after time with its catchy, but electronica based musical attack. Any sensitivity implied in the title doesn’t show up in the actual song – instead, it has thrilling, wide-eyed urgency. “Sign Language” is another swirling, musically active song, but the tempo varies some in comparison to the first two tracks. It sports another fine lyric that Morgan fills with a lot of finesse, keen eared phrasing, and enough emotion to break down anyone’s resistance to his music.
“Right Mistakes” has a slightly more orchestrated, layered feel than some of the earlier songs. This has a lot to do with how the various guitar sounds appearing in the song are woven around the other instruments and the final effect creates a dense, but nonetheless light, musical effect. This track has real weight and the blending of its lyric, arrangement, and vocal will make a deep impact on many listeners. His aforementioned cover of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like a Eagle” is entertaining and musically rewarding, but it shows off another element in this performer’s character that will serve him well in years to come. Morgan is, intensely, his own person and never adheres too closely to audience’s expectations. Instead, on Art + Work = Love, Morgan gives of himself and wins you over on that basis alone. It’s the sort of iconoclastic entertainer we need in this day and age.
9 out of 10 stars