James Morrison - Songs for You, Truths for Me (2008)

James Morrison
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James Morrison's 2006 debut album, Undiscovered, shot to the top of the British charts, joining a new generation of pop/soul crossover acts like Amos Lee, John Mayer and Corinne Bailey Rae in its appeal to twenty- and thirty-something listeners looking to recapture the organic sense of melody of 70s pop/soul troubadours.  The set showed Morrison to be an fine young songwriter and perhaps even a more impressive vocalist, his gritty voice showing the kind of earnest soulfulness that has eluded Rod Stewart (to whom Morrison is occasionally compared) for the last three decades. 

James Morrison's 2006 debut album, Undiscovered, shot to the top of the British charts, joining a new generation of pop/soul crossover acts like Amos Lee, John Mayer and Corinne Bailey Rae in its appeal to twenty- and thirty-something listeners looking to recapture the organic sense of melody of 70s pop/soul troubadours.  The set showed Morrison to be an fine young songwriter and perhaps even a more impressive vocalist, his gritty voice showing the kind of earnest soulfulness that has eluded Rod Stewart (to whom Morrison is occasionally compared) for the last three decades. 

Two years later, Morrison returns with an even sharper, stronger collection in his sophomore disc, Songs For You, Truths for Me.  And while the title would seem to indicate an introspective -- maybe even boring -- self-examination, the disc is instead a dramatic excursion, with hotter arrangements, more uniformly strong material and, of course, Morrison's gravelly baritone up front.  While James Morrison comes from the Billy Joel-influenced school of new singer/songwriters, this set moves him beyond peers like Gavin DeGraw by showing an even keener sense of melody than on his debut and further development as an interpreter of his own compositions.  It is tough to deny the irresisibility of tunes like the nifty duet with Nelly Furtado, "Broken Strings," the first single, "You Make It Real" or the excellent midtempo "Please Don't Stop The Rain."  But even more impressive is the clearer personal directon that Morrison displays on the disc.  So while a track like "Love Is Hard" could have been an outtake from John Mayer's Continuum, the horn-filled Southern soul of "Fix the World Up For You," or the Motown-influenced "Save Yourself" and "Nothing Ever Hurt Like You" show that the 23 year old Morrison is aiming for something beyond the college crowd.  He is claiming a role that Paul Young didn't have the full package to fill a decade and a half ago: that of a legitimate young UK soul singer -- forget the pejorative "blue eyed" preface -- and a world-class pop/soul songwriter.  The fact is there isn't even one clinker on Songs For You.  So even sensitive ballads like "Once When I Was Little" or "Dream On Hayley" that might have sunk most similarly themed albums are instead saved by Morrison's dramatic, memorable hooks and his strong delivery.

Like Continuum two years ago, Songs For You, Truths For Me reminds music fans of the glory that can be attained at the intersection of pop and soul.  And as John Mayer did then, James Morrison now moves to the head of the class with this album, delivering one of the finest front-to-back performances of 2008.  Highly recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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