CD Reviews

Morganway - 'Live At Epic' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 15, 2020    
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This exceptionally talented, unique sounding and highly entertaining group are something very special.

If you have read my review of Morganway's self-titled debut in Fireworks, you will already know how highly I regard this newish six-piece outfit from East Anglia. I knew nothing about them when I first demoed their debut release and it blew me away, and it was a firm contender for my 2019 Album Of The Year. I also attended a local show last year where Morganway were the openers and I have more recently attended a show just a week or so ago where they were the headliners, and I am thrilled to state that their reputation of being even better on the live stage than in the studio is true in every sense of the word... and considering how good their debut record is, that is saying something.

The reason this review does not appear in Fireworks itself is because of the limited nature of the release. This live album, which was recorded in their hometown of Norwich on 15th March 2019, is only available at their live shows and cannot be picked up online or from their website. Due to that, I felt it more appropriate to write a review for Rocktopia.

This eleven-track live recording is a perfect example of why the band are already held in such high regard when it comes to their live shows. Having seen them live on two occasions, it is also a nice live souvenir and while the set-lists for both shows I have attended were different (the most recent being twice as long as the first for starters), the set-list on this disc is in a somewhat similar order to the ones that were performed at both shows. Seven of the eleven cuts found on the debut appear in this particular set with another four which I assume come from the band's earlier EPs, although I have struggled to find a track-list for them to confirm this for certain. What isn't in question is the quality of the recording.

Much like my live reviews elsewhere on Rocktopia, the sound is crisp and clear with each member audible, much as they were in the shows I attended. The drums and bass pound out, the keyboards ping, the guitars chime and soar, the fiddle wails and the vocals (be it lead or backing harmony singing) beautifully ride atop the music being performed, although there are a few moments when they could be just a touch more prominent. As someone who has been impressed from the get-go with the outstanding vocal ability of SJ Mortimer, it will come as no surprise that I am thrilled to say all her little inflections and growls shine through on the recording (just take a listen to the end of 'The First Day' to hear her really giving it some, both in the high range and with her rapidly-becoming trademark deep wails). There are parts where Callum Morgan takes over on the mic and his vocals are just as impressive. One thing I noted from the live show was how much more prominent the fiddle playing of Nicole J Terry was, and this recording delivers exactly the same. I would say the guitar work from Kieran Morgan and piano playing of Matt Brocklehurst are more to the fore than during the first show I witnessed which only emphasises the talent within this six-piece group.

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When it comes to highlights, I once again find myself drifting towards those songs that by a small margin stood out for me on the debut. 'My Love Ain't Gonna Save You' features a solid beat, soft ringing guitar and combined vocals from Callum Morgan and Mortimer, while 'In A Dream (Coming Home)' is built around a nice beat, some crunchier guitar and a lovely fiddle display that really stands out from Terry. In the middle of the set there is the barnstorming 'Let Me Go' with its vibrant beat, lively fiddle playing, infectious riff, string-bending solo and stonking vocals. Closing out the set are two more of my favourites (which presently just nudge ahead in the standout stakes) in the Country jig that is 'London Life' and always impressive 'Hurricane'. Every time I have listened to the former I can see the band bouncing around the stage and it really is an uplifting ditty that always brings a smile to my face; it might even have had me wildly dancing around my music room, but that's just an unsubstantiated rumour if anyone asks. Bringing everything to a close is the powerhouse cut 'Hurricane' where all of Morganway's various facets come together in one glorious beast of a song. If you want to hear just how powerful Mortimer is on the live stage, just take a listen to this rendition. I might be mistaken, but I am guessing the live videos they released of 'Let Me Go' and 'Hurricane' are taken from this performance, so if you want a taster of what I am talking about, you should jump onto YouTube and find out for yourself just why I am so enamoured with this group.

If you are also a Morganway fan, especially one who has already seen them live, then this release is a no-brainer to pick up at their shows. It's actually a shame it is only available through that route and I wholeheartedly suggest to Morganway that if it is possible financially, contractually and stock-wise, then the band should seriously consider making this more widely available (even if just through their website). 'Live At Epic' is a hugely enjoyable example of just why there is so much talk about Morganway from various quarters. I have said it once and I will keep saying it, this exceptionally talented, unique sounding and highly entertaining group are something very special, and it will be an absolute crime if their future success doesn't match or exceed their potential.

Dave Scott

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