Edinburgh Queen’s Hall, November 16
James Morrison comes on stage to a packed Queen’s Hall to the sounds of Toots and the Maytals’ ‘Pressure Drop.’ And funnily enough, it gives a sign of what actually musically fires him…
See, I’d had James Morrison down as yet another singer-songwriter in the James Blunt mould, yet another who’d come along in the wake of Coldplay, and music for people who commit the cardinal sin of buying their music at motorway service stations, which is obviously far worse than murder. But listening to his latest album, Higher Than Here, it seemed like I might have been a bit harsh.
It’s actually vintage soul which informs his work. And while his stage patter may seem to be largely talking about how much he loves his daughter (come on, mate, that’s what facebook’s for), when he’s singing he may reflect his record collection, the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Live he comes across a bit less polished on record, and much better for it. Perhaps the best example of this is ‘Broken Strings.’ On record, a duet with Nelly Furtado, it’s pleasant enough radio fare. But stripped down to just voice, guitar and piano, it suddenly comes to life and with the audience joining in, surprisingly effective. ‘Wonderful World’ is perhaps still a bit twee but new album opener ‘Demons’ is amongst the best he’s done.
A few days ago, I got an email about this gig I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. And I’m glad I did. Here’s hoping that he makes a soul record, gritty, gutsy and with the feel of his live act.
The houselights come up and we traipse out to the sounds of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move On Up.’ It starts to make sense, now…