Thursday, January 4, 2018

Sarah Morris - Hearts in Need of Repair (2017)

Written by Laura Dodero, posted by blog admin

The third album from Minneapolis headquartered singer/songwriter Sarah Morris, Hearts in Need of Repair, is an eleven song outing outstripping her fine duo of previous releases and clearing the decks for Morris’ future. Morris has wisely opted to work with many of the same musical talents who made her first two studio albums sparkle with deeply felt emotion and unquestionable artistry, but Morris and her creative partners stretch even further with this album and raise the bar for this outstanding recording artist. It is Morris’ first release since 2013’s Ordinary Things, but Morris has been far from fallow over the last four years – she’s earned respected awards and experienced meaningful chart success, but Hearts in Need of Repair expands her artistic profile in a way those earlier fine releases did not.

Her sensitivity for the material is on full display with the first song and title track. “Hearts in Need of a Little Repair”, abbreviated for the album title’s purposes, is one of the highlights on this release and amply illustrates just how far she’s come since her debut. Her progress as a vocalist is most notable with this song. The title cut has a less identifiable structure than many of the album’s other more archly traditional tunes, but it proves not to be any sort of impediment for her. “Good at Goodbye” moves her into that aforementioned more traditional territory and shows off one of the album’s across the board strengths in its memorable chorus. Morris, likewise, couldn’t hardly have better accompaniment for this collection and one of the band’s peak moments comes with their supporting performance on this tune. The spikes of strong drumming and electric guitar in “Helium” give it a more of a rugged texture that it would otherwise like while banjo carries much of the melody. It avoids the stereotypical frantic picking common to bluegrass but introducing that musical voice to the collection makes for one of its more memorable moments.

The blues comes out most strongly on the songs “Falling Over” and the later “Shelter or the Storm”. The former is easily the more delicately wrought of the tune, more low-fi in character, while the latter has a light blues rock bite that makes it stand out from the pack. “Course Correction” has some country rock influences you can hear in its electric guitar work, but it’s an element she backs off during the verses where the focus falls more squarely on her vocals. The same shifting tempo that defined the title song returns with this number and has a positive effect on the overall result. “Empty Seat” is note perfect. No joke. There isn’t a single moment in the arrangement or lyrics that don’t get over with listeners in a big way and it should exert broad based appeal thanks to its excellence. It’s easily the best turn on a great album. A final exceptional moment arrives with the album closer “Confetti” and it has the effect of a leaf wafting to the ground – profoundly graceful and full of the same aural lyricism defining the release overall. Hearts in Need of Repair is a profoundly moving work, both musically and lyrically, and the center of it all is one of the nation’s best musical artists working on the scene today.

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