James Patrick Morgan – Art + Work = Love
The provocatively titled Art + Work = Love marks a critical turning point in James Patrick Morgan’s music career. Morgan has earned a reputation as a popular live performer in the Atlanta, Georgia area and surrounding environs, but this release takes his artistic pursuits to the next level. The collection features five songs, four originals, and show Morgan as a outstandingly creative musical force who effortlessly blends a variety of genre influences into a distinctive sonic template. This is as much high quality singer/songwriter material as it is pop and it’s to Morgan’s credit as a composer and vocalist he can engage audience’s thinking and emotions every bit as much as he can entertain. It’s an underestimated skill. Most artists are too limited, for one reason for another, or confine themselves to one line of attack in order to maximize their attention in a given style. Morgan, thankfully, doesn’t go in for any of that. The EP’s stellar production seals the deal for what makes this an exceptional release – it has vivid, visceral clarity without ever overwhelming the listener.
His originals are memorable. The knack he shows for bringing all the best parts of pop, rock, and low-key singer/songwriter styled songs together in a very modern way isn’t like anything you’ve heard recently. Morgan has a very energetic vocal style here well suited to the forceful pace set by the instruments, but their respective performances match up so well it creates a great, unified listening experience. The sound does a one eighty degree spin for the album’s second cut “Alone”. There are scarcely any acoustic or electric guitars present in the song and the performance, instead, relies on an assertive keyboard attack. The energy is just as high as the opener, but it manifests differently here. “Sign Language” has an intense rhythmic swirl born from its union of acoustic guitar, bubbling percussion, and quasi-classical piano spin. His lyrics are quite good and full of a surprising literary quality Morgan carries off with impressive ease. He sounds unbridled at point on the marvelous “Right Mistakes” and it might be his best performance on the EP. Morgan really gives of himself here in a major way and throws himself into the vulnerable lyric without any hesitation.
The EP finishes off with a cover performance of the classic rock staple “Fly Like an Eagle”. Morgan works hard to capture some of the original’s vibe, but he’s equally eager to remake the song much more in his own image and the vocal he lays down certainly has a different character than the classic version. It takes some bravery to attempt re-interpreting classic works for a modern audience, but Morgan doesn’t betray even a hint of jitters. This is a confident work as a whole. James Patrick Morgan swings through these five songs with a steady, coolly confident air that far outpaces where most performers are in their development at the time of their debut release. Morgan already sounds like he’s a polished songwriter and performer who’s only going to get better.
9 out of 10 stars