James Vincent McMorrow may sound as though his name was the result of ad men brainstorming forward thinking commercial ideas for an all consuming global fast food chain, however, the music he produces has little to do with pace or the future. Rather the opposite is the case for the majority of James Vincent's debut, self written, self recorded and self played album, 'Early In The Morning'. Recorded in a house by the sea (Not a semi, and not that I am aware with 2 other blokes of authenticated wisdom) Early In The Morning is a reflective collection of gentle and tender folk songs that on the whole remain on the acceptable side of the cheese and cliché counter.
The album is split into two quite distinguishable sections, the latter, whilst not unenjoyable, is a poor relation to the first half. The opener 'If I Had A Boat' is a perfect introduction to the qualities and subtleties that McMorrow can conjure up. Here James sticks to the more familiar topics of love, loss and longing rather than some of the more fantastical themes he touches on later....
"If I had a boat I would sail to you,
Hold you in my arms, ask you to be true.
Once I had a dream it died long before,
Now I'm heading North hoping for the shore."
Throughout the album James veers wildly between a confident troubadour able to drown out an orchestra through to weak and whispering brittleness, so fragile you feel the man may have just pulled you closer to utter his last in your ear. He's great at impassioned torment, as a disillusioned loner or equally as a warm and welcoming comforter for disparate souls and with 'Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Low' he manages to encapsulate it all.
McMorrow goes all Mumford on 'Sparrow And The Wolf' releasing the snare drum at, for him at any rate, breakbeat speed to accompany the jangle of guitars and a soupcon of redneck banjo for a toe tapping barn dance number. 'Breaking Hearts' follows on with an intro that could almost be America's 'Horse With No Name' but it quickly spins off into one of the best tracks on EITM containing without doubt the most brutally frank opening line..."You can stop your crying, I'm never coming back." The song is accented brilliantly with a honky tonk saloon bar piano that delivers a fabulous solo passage before James puts paid to any notion of making up....."When it comes to dying, I'll do it on my own."
'We Don't Eat' is where JV slips, unfortunately, and only briefly into a Mike And The Mechanics moment to revisit 'The Living Years'. It's such a fine line that he's treading you can almost forgive the indiscretion. (Always better to go James Blake than James Blunt if you're wavering) I'm sure if you wait long enough it'll be used as a mawkish back drop to some worthy cause and we'll all be weeping as we reach for the phone to pledge. 'The Old Dark Machine' follows on in a similar vein but with more of a West Coast feel.
From here in, with the notable exception of 'Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree', James chooses to indulge himself and in doing so loses focus, coherence and above all restraint, or as James would have it... "the closest I'll ever get to proper mythical fantasy writing!..... 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 '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." ('From The Woods' does contain a nice last minute of double tempo musical madness) With the remaining two numbers, the final being the title track 'Early In The Morning', James treats us to more vocal delights that have a Jeff Buckley like quality, hitherto unheard to such a degree on the rest of the album.
Having made Early In The Morning in solitude James may have missed the sense check of an accomplice on some tracks. Overall though it is good debut album with plenty of high points that lead you to believe there will be a lot more to come from James Vincent McMorrow.