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Who is James Vincent McMorrow?
James Vincent McMorrow is a 29 year old singer song writer who specialises in the folk genre of music. He's a solo artist and plays the banjo, guitar and drums. He originates from Dublin, Ireland and his accent is strong and raw in his music, which I think is lovely as you can really hear the Irish twang. James has one album and two extended plays. His style of music certainly will not appeal to everyone, and although his style is unique and diverse, a majority of his songs, especially on this album, are emotional, gentle and heartfelt, so if you are someone who enjoys dub step and rap and don't like soft, 'soppy' songs, his music won't appeal to you at all. If however you listen to music to release emotion and relate to lyrics, then you will absolutely love his work. His voice has this strange 'honest' kind of tone to it, like every word is a confession. If I had to compare his voice to any other artist, it would be either Bon Iver or Jack Steadman. He has Jack's slow, gritty, heart-felt 'honest' kind of style, and Bon Iver's ability to project strong emotions to the point of giving the listener goose bumps. His instrumentals are similar to that of Mumford and Sons, however despite the minor similarities he has to these artists he is very unique and nobody could every accuse him of been a rip-off/copy cat!
Despite his pure, gentle tone in a majority of his songs, the raw and strong emotion is projected well in a non-aggressive way - strong emotion is not over played or rushed at all and the lyrics, vocals and instrumentals all build up progressively which is just beautiful. I love that James sounds so 'normal' in his songs, he sounds like an average, normal, truthful, albeit very talented guy, rather than sounding like a robot like a lot of singers do nowadays; there's no auto tune in his work, it's all acoustic and it just sounds fresh. The emotion's so raw it feels like getting punched in the chest when the high notes kick in and I get goose bumps all over. It's that kind of music that you don't dance to, you just kind of sway in harmony to, you know? It's just beautiful. The subject matters are diverse; poverty, love, heartbreak, fear, and so on. His songs tell a story, a story from the heart, no matter how random the songs are he still sings as if he's telling us his best kept secret.
This guy is just magical, and the fact that he is practically unheard of is a huge shame. He deserves to be number one in the charts, yet I don't think i've ever heard a single one of his songs on the radio. None of my friends have heard of him, although whenever I play one of his songs they all seem to like it and my boyfriend likes it - I always have his music playing on my iPod dock and we cuddle to his music, it intensifies the situation in my opinion because the lyrics are relaxing and kind of 'match' how we feel about each other - does that sound cheesy and ironic?
Well, it's true, and it's hard to put into words exactly what I mean but I am sure you all get the idea! I first came across James' music on YouTube. I was watching soul kitchen, a French YouTube channel that films artists singing acoustic songs. I fell in love with James' music after watching the video and decided to look up his other songs on YouTube, only to find that he had an album out. After listening to the tracks on YouTube I purchased the album via iTunes and have played it every day since! It does something to me, it feels like he's speaking to me and telling me his story, of which I can really relate to - anguish, anxiety, regret, fear, heartbreak, love, frustration, hope.. there's every emotion you can think of crammed into his album. He really puts his heart, body and soul into his music, which really does make me respect and support him and his music - I plan on going to a gig of his in April, which I am majorly excited for!
Early in the Morning
Early in the Morning is James Vincent McMorrow's debut album. It was recorded between 2009-2010 and was released in the united kingdom in early March 2011. James recorded the album over several months in a cottage near the beach in Ireland, while under self imposed isolation. This really comes through in the album. His voice at times sounds strained like it's painful for him (emotionally) to get the words across due to such pure honest emotion. It's like all the thoughts and memories he's had stuck in his subconscious memory for years and forgotten about have all come pouring out, the isolated tone is really obvious and you can hear the vulnerability in his voice, which is almost haunting - without sounding cheesy! The album has eleven full length tracks and produced a number of successful singles in a number of countries. The album came at number 23 in the Irish album charts and number 73 in the UK album charts. The art work/cover art for the album is minimalistic, it simply shows a picture of what appears to be the sea with sand dunes and a beach in the background with a male figure in the background. Although the cover is basic, this doesn't effect my opinion on the album in the slightest. The artist name and album title are written at the very top in neutral (black and brown) font.
Price wise, this album varies from around £4-£8 depending on where you purchase it from. It is available from music shops such as HMV, Cex and so on, and Amazon and Play also sell it. I purchased my digital (downloadable) version from iTunes and paid £6.99 for the eleven track album, which I think is good value and I like to think that by purchasing the album rather than downloading it for free, I am supporting him and his wonderful music. The tracks on the album are also available separately and retail at 79 pence each via iTunes - a reasonable price in my opinion for good quality, full length songs. As far as I know there's no platinum album available with bonus tracks, which is a shame because I could listen to his music forever! It's hard to get bored of his songs though as they have that gorgeous fresh and new feel to them, due to the honest and personal lyrics.
If I Had a Boat is the first track on the album. It's a brilliant opening track as it really shows what's to come. The song is just amazing. I swear it makes me cry every time I hear it! The song starts slow with James singing in pure folk style, his voice starts gentle, soft, the lyrics relaxed and his voice slowly builds up as the lyrics get more personal. The song gets a little darker, more raw as it progresses, the emotion pouring out almost uncontrollably. I like at the beginning when there's backing singers (well, they hum more than sing), as they add a haunting kind of feeling to the song. Then the guitar riff and banjo kick in, and these too progress - the instrumentals start off very gentle; almost relaxing, but by the end the guitar riff is absolutely epic! The song in my opinion is about wanting to be with someone but not knowing whether you should be - because you don't want to get hurt, or you don't trust somebody. He sounds desperate to be with the person he's singing about but seems to lack trust and the emotion in his voice leads me to think that the person had broken his heard previously - "if I had a boat, I would sail to you, hold you in my arms, ask you to be true." It's a lovely song and although it starts out slow, it's worth sticking with all the way through as it really does explode into such an amazing guitar riff and his voice gets stronger and stronger; it's a beautiful song. I would rate this song 4/5 as the lyrics are flawless and heart-felt, but the slow beginning is a little bit of a let down and if you want to listen to a song without having to strain to catch every lyric then this isn't for you as he does sing quite softly during the opening part. The chorus is catchy and the harmony during the beginning of the song is stunning.
Hear the Noise That Moves So Soft and Slow is the second song on the album. It's pure and the folk oozes out. The song has a female backing singer who kind of hums at points in the song, which I like, and James' vocals are flawless in the song. His voice is rich while still being very soft and gentle; I have no idea how he does it, but his voice is just angelic.. heavenly. The lyrics in this particular song are almost poetic, and it's a real tear jerker when you listen to the lyrics properly. The lyrics are a little hard to understand at points but even if you don't listen properly it's still obvious that he's pouring his heart out. The instrumentals in the song are gentle; a guitar and (I think) a banjo, with what sounds like a maraca kicking in after a while. Although I am not completely sure of what some of the songs are about, they're still honest and raw you know? In my opinion it's about the person you love leaving you, ignoring you and treating you like rubbish, yet you still can't stop thinking about no matter how much you try to keep your mind busy. "You never know, you never know" makes me think that he's hoping, or telling himself that they'll get back together and everything will be okay. I would rate the song 5/5 as it's upbeat while still been beautifully emotional and it is one of those songs that despite the depressing nature is still upbeat because it kind of gives the "you are not alone" type of message, and it helps you realise that certain emotions (in this particular song hope and loneliness) are normal. The integration of the woman's backing vocals is a nice touch as it kind of makes you think that she's sick of him trying to get back with her even though she doesn't actually have any lyrics.
Sparrow and the Wolf is the third song on the album. This is so much different to the first two songs, and I was a bit confused at first but soon got into it. It's fast paced and has an almost 80's intro which is very brief but quite fun and fresh. The vocals are fast over a quickly paced guitar and various other instruments make an appearance too. Although it's a faster paced song it's just as touching, and he reaches some really high notes which give me goose bumps. This song comes across as the type of song that tells a story, and it's very easy to listen to and get lost in. I never get bored of this song and I like that unlike his other songs it's much more fast paced so it's one of the songs that I am actually able to dance to on the album! It also has a very optimistic, feel-good sound which makes me tingly all over. The song is very emotional when you listen to the lyrics. It tells the story of a bird and a wolf in harmony together, who are then caught in a trap and 'torn apart'. The bird represents a woman in a relationship while the wolf represents the male. The couple are torn apart for whatever reason (maybe divorce)? The woman in the relationship wants to get back together with the man and build the relationship, but the man isn't interested - "she turned in to him, begged for the light to remain." The song's got deep meaning which is easily disguised by the upbeat instrumentals, but when you listen to it it tells a very emotional and honest story. The vocals and lyrics are magical and the chorus is touching - "for I have seen no joy, only danger". The song gives me the impression that James is wary of people due to past relationships which I can really relate to which is probably why I like it so much - I give it 5/5 as it's fast paced (mainly due to the instrumentals) and the lyrics and vocals are flawless.
Breaking Hearts is the fourth song on the album. This is the second song of James' that I came across and my God. It is just beautiful, it represents so much that has happened in my life and reminds me that there's other people going through rubbish. The song is calm and well spoken, and it builds up at appropriate times as the emotion in the vocals become stronger and more apparent. The song starts out with me thinking that he's suicidal; he talks of 'walking down the (train?) tracks' to stop his crying heart, and stop his crying, because he can't take the pressure. Instead of committing suicide he decides he wants to be left alone and decides to move to a new city where he can call the streets his own, and he then plans to 'drink until it's gone.' We then learn that his girlfriend messed him about and although she was pretty, she didn't treat him right and he now sees attractive girls as empty shells. His ex wants him back but he's sick of her treating him like rubbish and replies to her "you can stop your crying, I'm never coming back." When he says he's been breaking hearts for far too long, I personally thinks he means that he's turned a lot of girls down in order to stay loyal to his girlfriend but now can't believe that he trusted her. I suppose the song will mean different things to other people but this is my opinion. As the song reaches the end, the piano is optimistic making it clear he's happy now he has left his girlfriend, opposed to the start of the song when the instrumentals were slow and emotional. I give the song 5/5 as it's very personal to me, I love the message it projects and his voice is beautiful throughout the song.
We Don't Eat is the fifth song on the album. It starts with a mild drum beat which lasts for 5/6 seconds then an erratic piano kicks in. It starts out sounding quite uplifting and fast paced, however then a more gentle instrument kicks in (I think it's a guitar) and softens the mood. James' voice is gentle, with quite a naive undertone. He sounds wary in the song, and the lyrics really tell a touching story. It has that 'special' feeling to it; the kind that makes the hair on my neck prick up. It's just lovely, so relaxed and truthful. The meanings of the lyrics are a little confusing and I am not certain of the exact meaning, but I am 99% sure it's a reference to searching for and finding religion and sticking by your morale's. I think there's a lot of 'growing up and finding your self' references, and been confused by stories and lies you were told while growing up, which in this case seem to be about faith and morale's. The song is touching, the lyrics are really powerful and portray his confusion and feeling of lack of control, however it does build up stronger and stronger and by the very end his voice is strong and powerful. I give the song 5/5 as it's amazing - it's probably one of my favourite songs on the album. Flawless lyrics, flawless vocals and amazing instrumentals.
This Old Dark Machine is the sixth song on the album. If I had to choose a favourite song from this album, it'd be This Old Dark Machine. It's the first song that I heard by James so that's probably why. The song starts with a gentle guitar and James' soft vocals kick in, it's very gentle and his style of singing in this song reminds me a lot of Bon Iver, particularly when he hits the amazingly high notes. The chorus is lovely - so heartfelt and close to the heart. The song's about falling in love with someone, and feeling infinite; "they'll remember us forever, they'll remember where we fell." The male of the song (James) talks of how he'll protect his girlfriend from any judgement and harm - "if they should touch the hem of your dress I would rise like a lion, strike out again." It has a kind of childhood sweetheart feel to it; I get the impression they were forced to split up either due to their parents or due to moving away, but James promises her in the song that he will love and remember her forever. The song is definitely one that different people will perceive in different ways, but for me it reminds me of young love. The emotion in James' voice throughout the song is lovely but the high notes in the song are just spine chilling - at first I thought it was someone else singing as i'd never heard his voice that high before, but yep it was him! His true singing abilities come out in this song and I love it. I would give it 1,0000 out of 5 if I could!
Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree is the seventh song on the album. My God, this song is just beautiful. It's haunting, with an almost creepy, disturbing tone to it, I don't know why but it does, yet it's so pure and beautiful at the same time. I am not quite sure what it's about. I think it's about a childhood experience during the summer (due to the thick air reference). It's a beautiful song, very, very haunting and it has quite a sinister tone to it, yet it's a beautiful song; the vocals are so honest as if he's telling us a story, yet the story remains somewhat of a mystery. The song is very easy to relax to and the drum that is struck every couple of seconds is a nice touch. The song's lovely and I really wish it was a bit longer, I could listen to it for days at a time! It's almost hypnotising and it always calms me down and relaxes me, it's easy to sing along to too as there aren't any high notes. It's a song that brings childhood memories back to me; especially summer memories, of been in the field near my old house playing with friends. James describes this song as been one that helped exorcise the underside of his personality. This is a really unique song, I am in love with it. I give it 5/5 stars - it's stunning.
Down the Burning Ropes is the eighth song on the album. This reminds me a lot of a Mumford and Sons song as it has the banjo, but it's still fresh and unique. Actually, the opening reminds me a bit of Brave heart, for some bizarre reason lol - maybe because it's got that folky feel to it. James' voice is fast paced and low in this song, somewhat rushed, as it he's re-living a bad memory, it does have a very dark tone to it. There's a lot of metaphors used in the song to represent a break up, and the shock of finding certain things out apart someone you love. The high notes in this song are stunning, I absolutely love the instrumentals too which build up nicely as do the vocals, this song is another of my favourites and it really is so new and refreshing, it's really unique and the lyrics are very honest and you can hear the pure emotion in his voice. I definitely give it 5/5 stars, as it's such a fast paced, flawless song that is full of tension and emotion.
From the Woods is the ninth song on the album. It starts out like a rock song, with a deep guitar riff. The song tells of (presumably) soldiers, or perhaps rebels coming from the woods on their horses. He proceeds to tell of how he found a place to hide. As the song progresses it's clear the figures that emerged from the woods are representations of the things in his head haunting him; secrets, regrets and so on. Well, this is how I see the song anyway. It's a good song but not one of my favourites, it's not hugely buildable and it's not the fastest paced song on the album, however the ending is absolutely epic. It suddenly just bursts into an epic guitar riffs with James singing the chorus at full pelt, this was pretty unexpected and the first time I listened to the song I nearly jumped out of my skin! I love it though and the clapping in tune with the music is a nice touch. I would give it 3/5 stars as the last minute is the best part; it takes a little too long to build up and is a bit repetitive.
And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop is the tenth song on the album. It's a really nice love song, and it tells of a relationship building. He speaks of the first time he laid eyes on her, and how his feelings are so strong towards her that nothing else matters. The chorus is stunning and the lyrics are beautiful. The song despite been so lovely is heart-breaking, because it becomes apparent that the relationship won't work as he's so over posessive; "and there are times I know when I will have to chase you, the further from my side you go, the longing grows and though I hate this, I'll still want you". The song is the most generic on the album, and it's very folk, but it's still amazing and I give it 5/5 stars. The ending is a little out of the blue when he reaches such high notes and I preferred his deeper tone of voice, but it certainly doesn't ruin the song.
Early In the Morning, I'll Come Calling is the eleventh and last long on the album. It is a very 'original' folk song; the type you'd expect from a folk singer. It's a lovely uplifting song but it's not as touching as his other songs and like the tenth song it's quite generic. It's a nice outro track though that leaves the listener feeling uplifted and I like that his song builds up as the song progresses to show his love and emotion towards whoever the song is written about. I'd give the song 3/5 as I prefer his darker songs, but I am sure a lot of people will love it.
This album is stunning. James is the most talented singer I think I have come across in recent years and he deserves so much more publicity than he has. I would recommend it a hundred per cent and it will remain one of my favourite albums for some time yet!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 If I Had A Boat
2 Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Low
3 Sparrow & The Wolf
4 Breaking Hearts
5 We Don't Eat
6 This Old Dark Machine
7 Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree
8 Down The Burning Ropes
9 From The Woods!
10 And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop
11 In The Morning, I'll Come Calling
12 We Are Ghosts