James Patrick Morgan - Art + Work = Love
You can sometimes tell a budding major talent from the push they receive. Music label A&R representatives and the counterparts in public relations sometimes get behind the wrong horse, but invariably, these evaluators of talent fix their aim on the right targets and some amazing careers are born. It’s hard to escape the feeling that’s what is happening with James Patrick Morgan’s EP Art + Work = Love. The five song collection from this talented Georgia born singer/songwriter and live performer gives him a sharp uplift into the early stages of his recording career thanks to an inspired and tightly focused set of songs delving into personal experiences without ever risking obscurity. Morgan’s wise enough to know his audience isn’t likely interested in musically moribund confessionals and the accompanying arrangements percolate with sharply observed turns and physically compelling tempos. Art + Work = Love is obviously a labor of love and superb work of top flight commercial music.
Popular music today doesn’t often get more top flight than the opener “Expected”. Morgan spends a lot of time, like most popular songwriters, mining personal relationships for song subjects, but he brings an unique point of view to the songwriting. “Expected” combines enough heartbreak and humorous cynicism into one song to make it combustible from the outset and the excitable, jumpy arrangement only makes things better. The sound couldn’t be more different on the EP’s second song. “Alone” has a more mid-tempo pace and a slightly exultant air, but the musical arrangement is driven forward on the backs of keyboards and synths while other instruments take on more of a supporting role. There’s a different side of the same commercial edge heard on the song “Sign Language”, but Morgan pulls back considerably on the electronic textures employed in the other song. He, instead, favors piano on this song and the way it matches up with the guitar work is quite memorable. It isn’t nearly as memorable, however, as the searing vocal Morgan gives us that makes the most out of another interesting lyric.
“Right Mistakes” has a big, bold sound unlike anything before it on the EP. There’s some hints of rock creeping into the song, namely the well placed use of electric guitar, but the signature elements of Morgan’s sound to this point likewise remain intact. There’s some particularly nice turns of phrase in the words and the insight required to write this song in the first place sets Morgan further apart as a writer. As if to wind down and relax while making his “exit”, James Patrick Morgan ends Art + Work = Love with a cover of the Steve Miller Band radio staple “Fly Like an Eagle”. It’s a great workout on a perhaps unexpected choice, but Morgan makes it work with the same skills in use making this debut one of the year’s best releases. Morgan’s four originals are the sort of work great careers are, in part, built on and Morgan is well on his way to the promised land.
9 out of 10 stars.