Although released back in February, it’s never too late to share music of quality and originality, but I apologise to guitar and vocalist extraordinaire, Laurie Morvan unreservedly for my oversight. If you haven’t heard of this lady, then a potted history for you: she had a challenging childhood in a rural Illinois town after her father left when she was five. Fortunately, a loving mother and stepfather helped her to flourish and she was hugely successful in college and earned a degree in electrical engineering. She also qualified for private and commercial jet pilot licenses and moved to LA to take on an aerospace job. She began to play in rock’ n’ roll cover bands, fell in love with guitar playing, practised eight hours a day and decided that music was where her destiny lay. Leaving her job led to her first album back in 1997; Out Of The Woods was released under the Backroad Shack name, and people began to notice this fiery talent. A further five albums (as the Laurie Morvan Band) saw the accolades pile up. She first came to my notice because of the repeated nominations and awards for best self-produced CD, so I bought her 2007 album, Cures What Ails Ya to see why…one listen and I knew exactly why. Here was a lady of the electric blues who understood what it is all about. I have followed her ever since. Her newest release is called Gravity and features twelve tracks, all composed by Laurie, which has again allowed her to mix her influences seamlessly with her own unique and skilled approach.
It all kicks off with a fine bit of boogie with some magical interplay between the guitar, vocals and drums with the B3 swirling in the background. After a neat guitar/B3 interplay, the solo is that lovely combination of chords and picking; the interplay is repeated before a rather good B3 solo too. Twice The Trouble hits an excellent blues-rock note from the outset. It’s mid-paced and a familiar format, but the time changes keep it different and the solo is worth the entry fee alone with its range and feel. Stay With Me (not That one) is a slowish paced true electric blues which again has a familiar structure, but the piano, B3 and guitar punctuation throughout keeps it from the over-familiar. Then there is another remarkable solo to keep the individuality she nearly always attains. Off to Texas next for a shuffle of the highest order on Money Talks. The bass on this is sublime and that, combined with the piano and Laurie’s consistent expressiveness on the guitar (especially when she effortlessly mixes vibrato and string bends so cleverly) gives this track such depth. To make sure predictability is not an adjective used here, we get a dose of funky Freddie King like blues on The Extra Mile. A brilliant wah solo is included and makes me love this track even more. Title track, Gravity, has an irresistible pull…sorry, but it had to be said! Especially as it is true of this blues ballad and it’s crafted jazz influences and the lyrics are well worth listening to as Laurie uses gravity as an analogy for some of life’s tribulations. A bit more Texas, and a certain SRV hint appears on Dance In The Rain. The stop/start beat and the way the bass and drums are joined at the hip (pun intended) while that B3 swirls away make this a standout; the guitar solo is quite stunning too. Rock in the swamp sums up Gotta Dig Deep…it may have those familiar overtones but I promise, with her playing and the harmony vocals with Lisa Morvan it still sounds new and most definitely fresh. The Man Who Left Me opens with a gospel ‘choir’ over pedalled chords, before taking a rhythm from the fields. It is actually heart wrenching when you realise the man in question is her father. The multiple voices and the subtle slide peppered throughout give it the gravitas and feel it deserves. If you need cheering up then fear not, the R’n’B stylings of Shake Your Tailfeathers will give the necessary lift with its steady rhythm and B3 with the guitar again providing a lot to love. I Want Answers has vocal/guitar duets and a Booker T rhythm which works well and then, toward the end, a solo of SRV style and quality. It all ends with Too Dumb To Quit, a witty and funky take on the blues. The slide guitar is perfectly phrased; she knows when to hold a note and let the spaces speak. The solo, over the B3 switches to wah for emphasis and then back to slide…love it!
So, here are twelve high-quality tracks of blues with feeling, each of them different, even if they occasionally remind you of standard blues structures. Guitar lovers will love the varied and skilful performances throughout.
Laurie has gathered some magnificent backing musicians for this album and she must have gelled with them very quickly to get the fluidity and feel across on tape, as this line-up isn’t her usual live band. Each one of these musicians makes an impact and the fourth and fifth listens were reserved for me to soak up the bass, keyboards and drums as they provide the glue that keep the whole thing together so well. My one regret? I would love to hear a track like Too Dumb… on a resonator or a cigar box guitar as the emotion Laurie can put into the slide would be off the scale on either of those…next time maybe?
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
Twice The Trouble
Stay With Me
The Extra Mile
Dance In The Rain
Gotta Dig Deep
The Man Who Left Me
Shake Your Tailfeathers
I Want Answers
Too Dumb To Quit
All songs composed by Laurie Morvan
Laurie Morvan: guitar, vocals
Mike Finnegan: B3
Jim Pugh: B3, Wurlitzer, piano
Barry Goldberg: piano
Bob Glaub: bass
Tony Braunagel: drums, percussion
Lisa Morvan, Maxayn Lewis, Kudisan Kai, Leslie Smith, Ricky Nelson: backing vocals
Produced by Tony Bruanagel; recorded at Ultratone Studios in California.