James Patrick Morgan – Art + Work = Love
Much like Scottish singers, there seems to be something particularly evocative about American singers hailing from the South crossing all gender and racial lines. James Patrick Morgan is one of the latest additions to the region’s long history of producing attention-grabbing, emotive vocalist. Not all of those legendary past performers have carried the songwriting weight you hear in Morgan’s music and often, when they do, those songs are the result of someone else’s writing. Morgan figures in heavily on Art + Work = Love and some of that is even reflected in the obviously personal nature of the title. The title implies other qualities as well. The EP’s unusual name implies this is debut, in some ways, is a statement of personal philosophy contained within its performance and songwriting. This Georgia born artist gets his message over loud, clear, and with unfettered freedom. It’s an inspired opening salvo in a potentially explosive career.
One of the more inspired performances hits listeners straight out of the gate. “Expected” has a wry, darkly comic sense of humor Morgan never overstates, but it’s effective nonetheless. The combination of acoustic guitar with a thoroughly modern tempo that seems like it comes bouncing out of the speakers makes this song immediately stand out. Morgan never overstates the humor, as mentioned earlier, but he does imbue the lyric with a sharp swagger seeming to indicate none of the obstacles or trials depicted in the song are going to hold him down. “Alone” goes all the way over to the pop side of spectrum with a synthesizer/keyboard dominated track that fits Morgan’s voice just as well as any other instruments. Morgan often sings surprisingly personal lyrics for songs in this vein and they are often filled with notable turns of phrase that bring attentive listeners deeper into the song. Having said this, however, it bears mentioning that tracks like “Alone” and its surrounding material feature very physical arrangements that forces his audience to make a decision early on – will they move or sit still?
“Sign Language” combines the best elements of his pop sensibilities with the singer/songwriter inclinations in his presentation for one of the album’s more emotional turbulent songs. Morgan’s voice makes full use of that unbridled feeling in the song to underline his dramatic singing. “Right Mistakes” vividly illustrates his songwriting prowess and how Art + Work = Love is bursting with songs that play to his best vocal attributes. On this track, Morgan breathlessly aligns his voice with this deep, emotional lyric that might seem to be a bit breezy on the surface, but holds hidden depths on closer examination. “Fly Like an Eagle”, a Steve Miller cover, ends the EP with a groove focused, celebratory effort and it’s a nice touch after the thorny emotional issues of the earlier tracks. James Patrick Morgan has an aura surrounding him – this is a guy burning with a passion to perform, write, and communicate with his audience and Art + Work = Love does a fantastic job doing just that.
9 out of 10 stars