Album Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – Gallery

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Backstory

We’ve reviewed several of Jimmy Lee Morris‘ recordings in the past here at the Blog. After I initially reviewed Wilderness Wood last spring, Jimmy contacted the Blog about writing some reviews for us, and as he’s such a talented wordsmith, he has been a terrific reviewer for us, too. Of course, since then he has continued to release music, rather prolifically, and he remains one of our favorite folk musicians. I reviewed his two-sided single last summer, and contributor Eric Harabadian reviewed his recent Campervan EP, which was a February release. Jimmy’s newest full-length album, Gallery, reviewed here, dropped on June 2nd.

Album Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: Gallery

Jimmy Lee Morris - Gallery

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Relatively light and cheery from beginning-to-end. That was my immediate reaction to Gallery. And how could it not be, as most of the songs feature the mandolin, a cheerful instrument if ever there was one. Gallery as a whole recalls for me Jimmy’s Wilderness Wood album in its upbeat, hopeful reminiscence and nostalgia. As usual, though the songs mostly reside within a tight range of singer-songwriter-folk, he explores all manners of style, energy, and influences, resulting in an album that engages and surprises (in small ways) around each corner of this 8-song collection.

Javier Forero

Javier Forero; photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Jimmy again surrounds himself with exceptional talent. On this CD, Javier Forero provides percussion, cajon and drums and Tim Kent plays octave guitar. Gallery was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Simon Scardanelli, who also supplied glockenspiel on two tracks.

“Mandolin Dreams” kicks things off in enthusiastically folky fashion, a high-tempo romp about a “vintage eight-string mandolin.” Then “5 O Clock in the Morning” quickly brings the tempo down, with Jimmy’s emotional, precise vocals straddling the border between melancholy and reminiscent. It’s followed by “Take Me Home,” which, musically true to its lyrics, is a mid-tempo drinking song with a sea shanty flavor. See what I mean? Small surprises.

Tim Kent and Jimmy Lee Morris

JLM with Tim Kent; photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

One of the songs that grew on me slowly to became a now-favorite, the title track “Gallery” is particularly slow-tempoed; Jimmy’s soft, sentimental, thoughtful croon carries the tune throughout.

“Stargazing” immediately lightens things up, though, with its playful melody and lyrics, like a romp through a meadow on a sunny day, when everything’s in bloom. “You and Me (Clinging to a Song)” maintains that energy, the two songs providing a back-to-back sunshine infusion, the latter with a bit of seventies radio-friendly folk-pop sprinkled into the mix.

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Penultimate number “Looking Back” sports a rich guitar sound as it builds from super-mellow to merely mellow, a hopeful song in which Jimmy deploys a particular warmth in his vocals, emoting in such a way that the words sound particularly profound, whether or not they actually are.

The disc ends much too soon with the song that quickly became my personal favorite and remains my very favorite on the disc, “End of the Road (’69 Campervan)” an energetic ode, presumably, to Jimmy’s much-sung-about campervan. The song becomes a bit ’60s pop-rock during the chorus, melding well with the old-school radio-friendly folk verses and bridges. In all, a well-crafted song to end a superb eight-song disc.

As always, Jimmy Lee Morris writes well-designed songs, surrounds himself with talented musicians and a top-notch producer, and performs his songs earnestly with an overarching sense of folk-rock fun. As a result, Gallery is yet another Jimmy Lee Morris album worth checking out.

EP Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – Campervan

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: Campervan (Automix Records)

Jimmy Lee Morris - Campervan

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

UK-based singer-songwriter Jimmy Lee Morris is a talented artist with no pretense. He writes songs that define the term “folk.” In other words, they are down to earth, and about people and relationships, with resonant melodies and memorable hooks. This four song EP Campervan is Morris’ latest and follows the 2016 album Wilderness Wood.

Jimmy Lee Morris has been crafting songs since the ‘80s, fronting bands such as Mojo Filter and The Collaborators. He’s worked with Pink Floyd producer Ron Geesin and has toured extensively throughout the UK and Denmark.

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

With this current effort, Morris provides a lean and economical window into his creativity. “Campervan Song” opens the EP in a pleasant and forthright manner. This bears a well-thought-out melody with lyrics that address escape and the open road. It’s all about being self-reliant and throwing caution to the wind. Simply, the song states: “And here’s to the camper that never breaks down, and here’s to the journey it takes us upon, and wave to the others as we go along, it’s just you and me on the road.” And you get this traveling troubadour kind of feel too via Javier Forero’s driving percussion and Clare Lees’ light and billowy flute.

Bethan Lees

Bethan Lees; photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Although Morris wrote all the material here no one could accuse him of being dictatorial or autocratic. Bethan Lees is a young and very special vocal chanteuse, and Morris is more than happy to place her in the spotlight on his beautiful tune “Amor Compartido (A Love We Share).” Bethan has an angelic and lilting soprano that sends this lovely song into stratospheric trajectory. It’s entirely sung in Spanish, and the rhythm section of Morris on acoustic guitar, along with Richard Leney’s lithe bass, Javier Forero’s percolating drums and producer Simon Scardanelli’s tasty lead guitar give this a brilliant salsa feel.

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

“When I’m Gone” is a bluesy-flavored number with a classic Beatles-meets-Jim Croce kind of vibe. It’s a song about love and longing. Anyone that has ever been separated from their significant other or main squeeze for any length of time will certainly appreciate this. Phillipe Guyard chimes in with a wailing sax solo that really kicks.

The final selection in this brief, but fine, collection is another rootsy kind of tune called “Temptation.” As is Morris’ style, he is direct and to the point in the communication department. In this he sings: “I’m holding you, you’re holding me, I’m loving you and you’re loving me. We don’t need no complication, just give in to your temptation, stay with me.” This has a real down home feel courtesy of Morris’ mandolin and Duncan Campbell’s countrified Dobro.

 

Two-Song Single Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – “When I’m Gone”/”Temptation”

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Jimmy Lee Morris – “When I’m Gone”/“Temptation”

The Backstory

I reviewed Jimmy Lee Morris‘ full-length album Wilderness Wood here on the blog this spring.  This is his newest recording, a two-sided single that’s available as a single-file digital download. Its official release date was yesterday, September 16th. Like Wilderness Wood, this double-single was produced by Simon Scardanelli.

Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: “When I’m Gone”/“Temptation”

Jimmy Lee Morris - When I'm Gone/Temptation

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Is folkabilly a word? Jimmy Lee Morris’ “When I’m Gone” puts a bit of a ‘50s rock spin on pop-folk with a bit of a hillbilly edge. And some nice jazz/blues horns. With a happy, upbeat energy that’ll have you swaying to the rhythm by the middle of the song.

It’s followed by “Temptation,” whose lower register gives it a dark edge when you hear it directly following “When I’m Gone,” though it rattles and shakes pleasantly enough. The twang in “Temptation,” though, is decidedly more bluesy.

These two songs are, indeed, a well-matched pair, ideal for a two-sided single release.

Album Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – Wilderness Wood

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Jimmy Lee Morris – Wilderness Wood

Backstory

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.

Jimmy Lee Morris - Wilderness Wood

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

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.

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

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.

Be sure to check Jimmy’s website for any additions or updates.