The debut EP from James Patrick Morgan marks an auspicious emergence for this talented singer/songwriter. Morgan’s extensive experience as a live performer makes him a well-honed proposition from the outset and the EP’s four originals bear testimony to how ready he is for this moment to shine. These recordings are fully realized – the production by studio veteran David Huff renders each detail with warm, crisp clarity and deftly juggles the assorted musical elements Morgan incorporates into his songwriting. Art + Work = Love is far from the typical debut EP from a popular music artist. It plays like a statement of intent. This is an artist self-consciously setting the bar quite high for his future efforts by challenging himself on each track and proving himself more than capable of answering the call.
There’s no better song to start the album than “Expected”. Perhaps the later “Right Mistakes” might have merited a look, but the light-footed swagger defining the feel and drive behind “Expected” makes Art + Work = Love pop with considerable firepower. The use of acoustic guitar gives his performance more musicality than it might otherwise possess and certainly a more layered effect that never obscures Morgan’s vocals. He’s high in the mix on each of the EP’s five tracks, but not so much so that the musical arrangements are rendered all but irrelevant. “Alone”, contrasting its title, has some of the same rambunctious musical spirit fueling the EP’s opener while pursuing a much different forward thrust and melody. The keyboards have a much stronger presence here, as well, and lead the way as the song’s dominant musical instrument. Morgan sings like someone who doesn’t want or have any intention to be alone for long. “Sign Language” engages in a little musical sleight of hand as it kicks off as a relatively spartan tune musically, primarily carried by Morgan’s voice and lyrically swirling piano, before the pace picks up and it transforms the track into a dynamic and dramatic musical showcase.
One of the EP’s more memorable tracks comes with “Right Mistakes”, a driving rocker with plenty of sweep and on target guitars. The lyrics and Morgan’s delivery give the song an even more powerful punch and the vocal melody shows all of the same musicality we’ve heard elsewhere on the album. The closing track “Fly Like an Eagle” is, thankfully, never a slavish cover of Steve Miller’s original. Instead, it uses Miller’s classic as a launching pad for Morgan’s own unique interpretation of this classic rock staple. The guitars defining Miller’s version are deployed here in a much different fashion, but their effect still hits all the right spots. Art + Work = Love ranks as one of the more robust and intelligent pop/AOR rock offering in recent times and his talents carry these fine examples of songwriting to their fullest potential. It’s an ultra promising opening to what seems to be a fantastic career in the offing.
by Lydia Hillenburg