Sam Morrow is a young man, but as one of his songs says, he does seem to have an “old soul.” Ephemeral is his debut album on 40 Below Records. Still in his early twenties, he has a pure and honest sound and songwriting ability that put him on a level with some of his obvious influences, like Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash. Rooted in Americana, the music also often reflects the influence of alternative music, especially, it seems to this reviewer, Coldplay.
The songs are all written or co-written by Morrow except for “Forever,” which was written by Eric Corne, founder of 40 Below Records. Corne also shared writing credits with Morrow on “Run,” “Sure Thing,” “Old Soul,” and “Gone,” which ring as honestly with Morrow’s voice and delivery as the five songs Morrow wrote alone.
The first song, “War,” sets the tone for the whole album, with its haunting violin and slow guitar underscoring the somber tale of a man who seeks to find in the bottle the joy he cannot find as a husband and father.
The next song, “Old Soul,” tells of the pain that love can bring and the strong desire to hold on without breaking. It has a stronger alternative vibe than “War” and benefits from the soaring clarity of Morrow’s impassioned vocal. “Sure Thing” gives us a more upbeat sound, although the themes of heartbreak and struggle remain the same. “Run” seems to continue the story where “Old Soul” left off, only this time with anger more dominant than sorrow. It builds from acoustic to a syncopated beat and strings that weave a strong foundation for the rising passion of the vocal.
“December” takes us back to that struggle with the bottle, only this time from the perspective of a man who has been two years sober. It is a touching song of remembrance and rebuilding, with soft female voices and muted strings emphasizing the mood. “Forever” seems to complete this set of songs, with a calm and beautiful rendition that invites you just to stop and pay attention.
“14” is something different. Here the country/rock sound most evokes Springsteen, and with its tale of heading down a dangerous path at a very young age, it seems like a prequel to the songs that went before, and a glimpse into the soul of the protagonist that rings absolutely true. It leads to the short, melodic and poignant “Midland,” followed by “True North,” a song about finding one’s way, about making mistakes but not becoming hopelessly lost on the journey. “It’s the journey that writes the story,” sings Morrow. The last song, “Gone,” is an emotional bit of storytelling that may take a couple of listens to truly appreciate after the impact of “True North.”
Morrow is a musician who deserves the critical acclaim he has begun to garner and who should find a large and appreciative fan base. Get this album and discover him for yourself.
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