Sarah Morris – Here’s To You
Some singers depend on vocal showboating while others only need their artistry & varying subtle tonal changes in their voices to bestow an impressive trait. The voice becomes an instrument. On the opening “Here’s To You,” Sarah Morris (vocals/guitar/piano) cruises through on engaging vocals that evoke expressiveness with fluency.
While she could be compared to Tori Amos at times I find Sarah superior melody-wise. Vocally she has a pleasant soft-spoken airy colorful tradition similar to Norah Jones & the instinct to shift to a lilting Sarah McLachlan. It also seems she’s one of the few songwriters who are aware of the value of clever lyrics. The last few CDs I’ve assessed by others have excellent lyrics (usually not as evident).
Musicians are often wonderfully talented & melodies are often well-crafted. But the words – ah, the words – usually candy-coated cliches of the Hallmark Greeting card quality. Not here.
Minnesota’s Sarah Morris provides 9 worthy tracks on Here’s To You (Drops May 5–Independent). It’s her 5th CD & finds the music flowing as gently as newly washed cotton bedsheets billowing in the air before coming to rest in the delicate production of Dave Mehling (piano/organ/synth/guitars/accordion/pedal steel/percussion).
Sarah wisely understands the balance in approach required to sustain the attention of the listener. She goes from a vague avant-garde, surreal type arrangement to gentle balladry. But she doesn’t go weird on us like Lene Lovich or Laurie Andersen. She maintains a beautiful tone throughout. Her lyrics are descriptive & her intonation, range & phrasing – all impressive.
The song topics are challenging. This isn’t mainstream/commercial material. There’s substance, stylization & a hint that on songs like “Staggering,” Sarah could be an effective jazz singer. She leaves quite an impression at times. Ms. Morris’ songs take listeners through “conversations” being had by lovers & friends as she walks through an intimate neighborhood of characters while navigating a lush backdrop. “You + I,” is superb in that regard.
“Something To Hold,” also reminds me a little of what Adele has done, but I’ll go back further to a singer Bird York who was already doing this emotive technique. Deep, whispery mature approach. Sarah does it with expertise. But what sets Sarah apart from these singers is that she succeeds to hint at country flavors in her lucid vocalizing. She adds a smooth complexion to a lovely song.
“Come Back,” lyrically summons the ghost of Dory Previn (“Lemon Haired Ladies”) but Sarah’s effective as usual. She also cleverly summons Gertrude Stein in her nicely upbeat “Hello, My Name Is,” when she sings “A rose is a rose is a rose.”
Highlights – Here’s To You,” “You Are (Champagne on a Wednesday),” “Ruthless,” “Staggering,” “You + I,” “Something To Hold,” “Come Back” & “Hello, My Name Is.”
Musicians – Thomas Nordlund (acoustic/electric guitar), Lars Erik Larson (drums/percussion) & Andrew Foreman (upright/electric bass).
Color photo courtesy of Sarah’s Bandcamp & CD photos: Emily Isakson. The 43-minute CD @ Bandcamp + https://sarahmorrismusic.com/heres-to-you/