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Drew Morrison and the Darkwood - Electric-Notes Wild

  by John Clarkson

published: 13 / 10 / 2018

Drew Morrison and the Darkwood - Electric-Notes Wild
Label: Storm Cloud Agency Records
Format: CD


Superb debut album from acclaimed London-based country outfit Drew Morrison and the Darkwood

A master storyteller, Drew Morrison has the unique talent of creating both fully-drawn characters and defining their inner worlds with his songwriting. Morrison and his band the Darkwood have been a regular fixture on the London circuit since 2011 with their bi-monthly Sunday night ‘Country Soul Sessions’ shows at the Spice of Life in Soho, and have also performed at other of the city’s venues including the Betsey Trotwood, What's Cookin' and the Boogaloo. They released their four song debut EP, ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’, on their own label Storm Cloud Agency Records in 2016, and have now followed this with their first album, ‘Electric-Notes Wild’, which is available on both CD and vinyl. The narrator on the deceptively breezy ‘Keep a Movin’ On’ abandons one lover who he claims has been unfaithful to him and the next for being too possessive, but as the song progresses it becomes apparent that the problem in reality lies as much with him as his exes and his own wanderlust and fear of commitment (“When I see you I know just what to do/I have got to keep a movin’ on/Because you will just bring me down”). The protagonist of ‘Ladytime’ protects herself with a carefully structured world of celebrity influences, make-up and artifice but is no longer capable of displaying real emotion (“Can you say that ‘I want you’ without texting it?”), while on ‘Like We Used to’ two world weary, jaded ex-lovers debate getting back together not because they are good for each other but out of desperation (“Let’s make love like we used to/Oh baby, baby, stay all night/I am feeling lonely but you can make things right/I guess that I am hoping that you are lonely too”). Music is another dominant theme, especially on the opening track ‘Always’, which pays tribute to those singer-songwriters and acts which we come across when we are young and then who remain with us forever (“You sang words that linger with my head/I guess that I will carry you/I guess that I will carry you always”). Morrison, who also provides guitar, is a strong-voiced, compassionate singer, who clearly likes his subjects for all their failings. He is backed by his band - Michael Hughes (bass and vocals), Martin Murray (guitars and vocals) and Nick Steyn (drums) - who provide gorgeous three-way harmonies and give the album an eulogistic sound. Former Darkwood member Phil Carwardine lends additional guitar, while Tim Pearson provides waltzing keyboards and Steve Benaim and Henry Senior ringing mandolin and pedal steel to several tracks. As the album progresses, its two main themes - heartbreak and music – become increasingly synonymous. The main character on ‘In Your Own Time’ claims at its start that he wants to remain on good terms with the lover he has just dumped (“I didn’t mean to hurt you/I tried to remain a loyal friend”), but it ends messily in a volley of harsh words and mutual loathing (“It would be so much better if you could just crawl away and die”). Much of the reason for his fury with her becomes apparent at the midway point (“You told me music was your saviour/And, yes, I believed you then But you were just searching for a home/You took the first thing that came along”), On ‘Country Soul’, which pushes his, Hughes and Murray’s sublime harmonies to the fore, Morrison reflects on his love of country music, and on ‘Sad Songs’, which recollects the death of Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens, on those sad songs which become both life-affirming and uplifting. It is closed with the stark, sparse ‘Nightbirds’, in which its narrator listens to the nightbirds calling in the lonely after hours after a relationship has ended. Four of the tracks on ‘Electric-Notes Wild’ – ‘Always’, ‘Ladytime’, ‘Country Soul’ and ‘Nightbirds’- have already appeared on the ‘Tales of Love, Sadness and Rock and Roll’ EP, but few are likely to feel in any way short-changed by this. With its beautiful harmonies, exquisitely-crafted arrangements and Morrison’s empathetic and literate lyrics, it is an album of exceptional quality.

Track Listing:-
1 Always
2 Keep A Movin' On
3 Ladytime
4 Islands
5 Like We Used To Do
6 Let Me Break Your Heart Tonight
7 . In Your Own Time
8 Country Soul
9 Sad Music
10 Nightbirds

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