REVIEW: Morgan Wade’s “Reckless” Looks Back at Past Wreckage


First albums often include a large passage of time. The artist has had several years (or, really, their entire life) to build up stories and experiences enough to easily populate ten or twelve songs, plus a wealth of personal growth to pour into those tunes. Virginia singer-songwriter Morgan Wade has been performing live for nearly a decade, and it’s taken that much life and hard livin’ (including claiming her sobriety a few years back) for her full-length debut to take form. Reckless has Wade looking back at past wreckage and wondering where she’ll end up next.

Produced by Paul Ebersold and Sadler Vaden and featuring several 400 Unit-ers, Reckless finds the sonic midpoint between Wade’s tough-edged live shows and slicker, radio-friendly country. Thematically, the record forms a bridge from Wade’s bad-girl past to her sober young woman present. The lead track, “Wilder Days,” features a driving, pop-inflected rhythm and has the singer wishing for a partner who can (or would even want to) keep up with her – “Who were you before I knew your name?” But that potential partner isn’t in that place anymore, much to Wade’s chagrin – “You are just scared I’m too right for you.”

References to a gloriously misspent youth – cigs, booze and tattoos – are scattered all over the Reckless. “Last Cigarette,” the most outright poppy tune on the album (with a thumping bass line from Vaden and even a little synth in the bridge) hits on all the vices – “Addiction is strong, I know it’s wrong/But I need that high, I ain’t gonna lie.” “Other Side” asks the listener to remember the young girl behind the scarred exterior – “You knew my skin back before I had all these tattoos.” And the title cut is a plain ol’ FM-ready stomper that gives a smooth finish to Wade’s hard-worn western Virginia twang.

“Don’t Cry,” driven by reverb and Wade’s dramatic delivery, addresses the push and pull that she fights in trying to push past her vices and self-doubt – “I hate to suffocate between something I love/And something I hate.” Wrapping the album, “Met You” (one of three solo writes on Reckless) features the singer’s most affecting vocals (and some excellent work on keys from Derry deBorja) while looking back at a relationship that didn’t quite reach a sappy Hollywood ending – “We didn’t get our books/In bed every night/Or dance in the kitchen/Drunk off of some sh!tty wine.” It’s over now, yet maybe it isn’t – “Like Hemingway and Hadley/It’s not the end of our story.” And that bounce-back is the point of Reckless. Through all of the damage done (self-inflicted and otherwise), Wade is still here, even if she doesn’t know for certain what the next step is. And that survivor’s instinct might just bring a little lift to a few misplaced young women (and young men) and help them gut it out for at least one more day.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: I had TWO failed attempts to see Ms. Wade live last year, so anything would be great, but I’m especially looking forward to her intense vocals in “Don’t Cry.”

Reckless was produced and mixed by Sadler Vaden and Paul Ebersold, engineered by Ebersold and mastered by Richard Dodd. All songs were written by Wade, with co-writes going to Vaden and Ebersold. Musicians on the album include Vaden (electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keys, synthesizers, Mellotron and background vocals), Ebersold (drums, keys, synths and Mellotron), Jimbo Hart (bass), James Dick (drums and percussion), Fred Eltringham (drums and percussion), and Derry deBorja (keys, synths and Mellotron).

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