Jimmy Lee Morris – Wilderness Wood
There’s a little backstory, as this album was produced by Simon Scardanelli, whose music I’ve reviewed as long ago as the mid-1990s and whose latest release I reviewed here.
Jimmy Lee Morris has a significant musical backstory of his own. He started writing and recording in the 1980s. I won’t run through his entire background, but he has done solo work, and bands in his past include A La Tienne, Mojo Filter, and the Collaborators. The album Wilderness Wood was released on April 1st, 2016 on Automix Records and published by Musica Scardanelli.
Album Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: Wilderness Wood
If I had to describe Jimmy Lee Morris’ Wilderness Wood in just a single phrase using way-too-many hyphenated adjectives, I’d describe it as a full-sounding, folk-influenced, singer-songwriter-styled, song-driven recording. But it’s more than that, and you can identify specific other genres influencing some individual tracks on the LP. Beyond folk, you’ll hear some Americana, a hint of blues, and a little jazzy flair.
Disc-opener “Give Me All Your Love” has a folk base, but the full orchestration is rather soft-poppy, and the guitar picking suggests Americana/Western. I’d call it eclectic, but that might suggest inaccessibility; in the end, it’s a singer/songwriter type of tune that significantly carries the aforementioned influences. And therein lies the difficulty in describing Jimmy Lee Morris’ music – while much of it defies categorization, it always sounds familiar.
Jimmy possesses a high, strong, rich voice. The songs on Wilderness Wood are well-written. And the production and instrumentation is full and lush, except where a light touch called for. But it’s interesting to run through the songs focusing on the edges, where the songs differ from each other rather than how they’re so cohesive and similar, so with that in mind…
Probably the best pure folk song is the traipsing-through-the-woods-ish song about a trip – technically, I suppose it’s a song about a driving trip, with its title a dead giveaway on that point – “Campervan Song.” This one will have you swaying left and right, perhaps flashing a peace sign, and most likely wanting to sing along once you learn enough of the words to make it worthwhile. Meanwhile, the catchiest pop-folk song of the collection may well be “Sunshine,” with its happy whistle and light, enthusiastic tone. It’s a musical tonic for shaking the blues.
Speaking of blues, the award for best blues edge on Wilderness Wood clearly belongs to “On the Outside.” Great bluesy guitar riff. And a classic recurring blues line in”Nice of you to tell me to my face…” Yeah, it’s blues-folk; heckuva job on this mild genre-bender.
Continuing in the genre-combo theme, do you like a dash of polka seasoning in your folk? The next song, “Home From Home,” achieves just such a convergence. Sure, it’s mostly folk, but it’s just another example of how this disc, while maintaining its folk center and featuring Jimmy’s emotive, identifiable vocals, explores additional influences to juice up individual tracks.
The external influences keep coming. Prefer a little jazz with your folk? There are a couple spots you’ll find it in Wilderness Wood, but “Don’t Fear the Night”‘s sax intro isn’t just a tease; yeah, you’ll find jazz in spades throughout. Daddy-o. If there were such a thing as hipster jazz-folk, this would be it.
Also worth mentioning are “Nothing to Fear,” with its ’70s soft rock/lounge flavor (and sleek, cool sax line); lullaby-esque ballad “Sleep in the Morning”; and “It’s You That I Love,” which has a similar lullaby flavor but tends a bit toward a slow dance song, something you might expect at a ’50s high school sock hop.
Finally, my favorite track (the one you’ll find on my personal smartphone playlist, in fact) is “This is the Life That You Chose,” which sports a twangy, Western folk-Americana feel. And, of course, in my mind at least, its title phrase can be a bit snarky.
Throughout the album, you can tell Jimmy Lee Morris knows his way around a song and is well-skilled with his instrument and his voice. And the album’s lush, full production is rich enough to fill a room. If your musical tastes include folk-Americana music that incorporates other influences, you’re likely to really dig Wilderness Wood. Despite the variety of influences – well, actually, because of them as a 13-song disc of pure folk would get somewhat redundant for anyone but the most hardcore folk aficionado – it’s a cohesive collection that takes its listener on a pleasant journey.
On the Road
Jimmy just kicked off a tour of radio appearances and live gigs. I’ll list them below, but you can also find them on Jimmy’s website.
You can hear Jimmy on the radio May 8th in Seaford on Seahaven FM; May 25th in Uckfield on Uckfield FM Folk Is Not A Rude Word; and May 30th in Brighton on Reverb Radio.
You can see Jimmy perform live on May 26th in Uckfield at Folk & Blues Club Ringles Cross; on May 27th in Hastings at Gecko Bar; on May 31st in Lewes at The Lamb; on June 1st in Lymington at Folk Club the Thomas Tripp; on June 4th in Lingfield at The Star; on June 11th in Mayfield at Rose & Crown; on June 18th in Eastbourne at the Pentacle Drummers Solstice Festival; and on June 19th in Battle at Crowhurst Park.