Released March 26th 2012 on Sandwich Emporium Records
Reviewed by Steve Boniface
With the current wave of male solo singer-songwriters taking their place in the public consciousness it’s hard to say whether or not Jake Morley’s emergence is perfectly timed. The current focus on artists such as Ben Howard and Ed Sheeran could mean that more people will be willing to hear what Morley has to offer, but in order to steal some of their spotlight it will take someone of immense talent and drive.
Fortunately, Jake Morley has both of these, as evidenced throughout this sparkling debut LP which approaches the acoustic genre with a distinct folk-blues feel. Listening through the album for the first few times it’s hard to pick out highlights due to the strength of every track on offer and the best recommendation is to sit down for an hour and fully take in everything it has to give.
To the uninitiated, Morley has more than a passing musical resemblance to the aforementioned Ed Sheeran, particularly on track one, The Light. Regular comparisons have been made between the two in the online community, but to say this is to ignore the fact that they both write from different places altogether, both excellent in different ways.
Morley’s lyrics, for example, are far less blatant in their emotion, often asking the listener to do more work in the interpretation of his songs. And where Sheeran regularly writes from a more urban/hip-hop sensibility, this release has a for more rootsy background to it.
This folk background comes to the fore most Reeling, with its lilting harmonies, and Be With Me Once More, with its building tempo, banjo and ukulele. This track is also an excellent example of his lyrical style, using a collection of seemingly inconsequential objects which turn out to be vitally important, and using them as a metaphor for being one half of a relationship. It’s a style reminiscent of Loudon Wainwright III, an old school folk singer well known for summing up complex sentiments with the simplest of words.
The sheer number of top drawer tracks on this album makes listing them all a moot point. There’s no space to highlight here everything that’s good about it. The fierce lead single Feet Don’t Fail Me Now for instance, or the catchy blues stomp of Freddie Laid The Smackdown. Not to mention the brilliant seventh track, Pondering On A Scenario In Which I Am The Hero, which draws on the common human desire for that defining moment of truth when the world is watching.
If you do get the album (which you should) then it would also be churlish not to buy the Special DVD edition. In an unusual move for a debut release, the DVD that comes with the CD features archive video footage and a bizarre but brilliant presentation of song notes and lyrics scribbled and taped to the underside of a table. Not to mention song by song interviews, helping you understand each track better.
The main DVD feature though is a recorded full band gig worth the price of the release on its own. It gives a real flavour of how these tracks are carried over into the live environment, and how they don’t lose any of their lustre once free of the studio.
If Jake Morley is arguably riding the wave of current singer-songwriters, then his place there is well deserved.