Maren Morris’ rise to prominence has been a long time in the making. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter has been independently releasing album since back 2007’s Maren and 2011’s Live Wire. In 2015 Morris released a self-titled EP after signing with Columbia Nashville, which gave fans a taster of her music and launched the Top 10 single My Church. Hero is Morris’ major label debut and since its release in June it has already topped the US Country Charts.
If you’re familiar with any of Morris’ independently released albums then be prepared for a rather different proposition with Hero. The album brims with confidence, Morris’ vocals are stronger and the production offers plenty more polish. From the bluesy Rich through to the powerful ballad Second Wind, Morris caters for pretty much everyone and showcases her versatility as a performer.
The first thing you notice after listening through to Hero is that the album is very much a melting pot of genres and styles. Country traditionalists will likely claim that the album veers more into Pop than Country but as with modern artists such as Brett Eldredge and Sam Hunt, Morris is pushing and blurring the boundaries of the genre. Hero opens with the uptempo Sugar that allows Morris’ soaring voice to impress and highlights her knack for a strong melody.
Lead single My Church is probably the nearest Morris gets to traditional Country and even that track is infused with gospel leanings. Current single 80s Mercedes, one of four tracks written with busbee, packs a stronger hook than My Church as Morris sings of her love for vintage things. Elsewhere on the record the feisty Drunk Girls Don’t Cry gives a glimpse at Morris’ sassier side, How It’s Done is a beat-filled pop number with a soaring chorus, and I Wish I Was is a soulful bluesy ballad that really shows off Morris’ distinctive vocals.
The highlight on the album is the acoustic-led ballad I Could Use a Love Song. Morris’ vocals are softer on the verses, the production is a little more stripped back and the chorus is uplifting. Morris delivers her most emotive vocal on the track and I’d like to hear more from her in this vein.
Hero won’t be to every Country fan’s taste but those who like their Country infused with other styles and genres will find plenty to enjoy. The album is aimed squarely at the masses, which is no bad thing, and it’s a strong major label debut for one of the most promising new talents in the Country genre. Morris has the chops to back up the album with her live performances and she’s a truly special talent. Hero is just the beginning of what is looking likely to be a long and successful career.
Track Listing: 1. Sugar 2. Rich 3. My Church 4. I Could Use a Love Song 5. 80s Mercedes 6. Drunk Girls Don’t Cry 7. How It’s Done 8. Just Another Thing 9. I Wish I Was 10. Second Wind 11. Once Record Company: Columbia Release Date: 3rd July 2016