12 July, 2014 in Music Reviews
On his debut album ‘Ephemeral’, old soul Sam Morrow trades in the sorrow that’s drawn many a songwriter to greatness
ike many a troubadour, Sam Morrow takes addiction as his target and an acoustic guitar as his arrow. Having nearly drowned in the deep and murky waters of a beer bottle, he now finds his head above water and mouth pierced to a microphone.
Ephemeral is Morrow’s debut album, and it’s a fitting paean to the hollow, transient existence that one can find themselves in during the heat of addiction. Musically it delves into the territory occupied by the likes of Neil Young, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes and Johnny Cash: cutting country-tinged folk that’s not shorn of its hooks.
Opener War lays the Bon Iver influence bare. With Morrow’s vocal a less wrought, yet equally defeated tenor that could be Justin Vernon’s bigger brother. Where, though, Vernon’s voice is a haunting falsetto, Morrow veers closer to Johnny Cash’s funeral stoicism. Old Soul is the most fitting title to be found on the album, succinctly summing up both the protagonist and the music he makes. Elsewhere 14 recalls June On The West Coast from Bright Eyes’ precocious debut Letting Off The Happiness and December drinks from the same shallow well as Neil Young’s Harvest.
Ephemeral has all the finest qualities of those to have inspired Morrow: the delicacy of folk, the sadness of country and the accessibility of indie. What seems to be a little lacking, though, is empathy. When Johnny Cash sang Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, he took the words of Trent Reznor and made them entirely his own. Even with his own words, you don’t quite get that with Morrow. Yes you believe him, but do you feel for him?
Such a quality is though the domain of the timeless writer and it’s one that not every songwriter has instantly. Morrow may get there, as he already has the foundation to do so – sincerity – in buckets. For now, with songs as good as the lovely Cat Stevens-esque True North, Morrow has more than enough about him to leave Ephemeral much more enduring than its title would suggest.
Verdict: A well composed piece of troubadour folk