Originally from East Anglia, Morganway was formed in 2016 by twin brothers Callum and Kieran Morgan and Matt Brocklehurst. Quickly joined by SJ Mortimer, Nicole J Terry and Ed Bullinger, they began honing their blend of classic rock, country, indie, pop and Americana, winning praise from the likes of Bob Harris along the way. With appearances at C2C Festival and Glastonbury under their belt, now they’re releasing their self-titled debut album.
The record opens with My Love Ain’t Gonna Save You. It starts off with a sparse intro, focusing on Callum’s bass playing, before bursting into fantastic harmonies from Callum and SJ. Their voices work really well together and it’s a strength that the band return to throughout the album. I also really like the switch between the breathy vocals on the verses and the powerful, chanting chorus with its rocky vibes and wailing guitars from Kieran. The frank lyrics and stomping drumbeat add to the song’s swagger and the abrupt ending packs a serious punch.
Throughout the album the band draw on a number of classic rock influences and styles. Let Me Go is an early highlight, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s classic The Chain with its driving beat and fuzzy guitar riff. SJ and Nicole share lead vocals, balancing each other beautifully between Nicole’s ethereal sound on the chorus and SJ’s powerful, raw voice in the verses. Elsewhere, the shuffling, keyboard-led In A Dream (Coming Home) has a 1960s feel about the melody that works really well with the song’s simple but effective imagery, whilst the 90s vibe of New Way with its grungy guitars shows the contrast between SJ’s incredible belt and Callum’s more measured delivery of the song’s optimistic yet defiant lyrics.
One thing which really struck me about the record is the incredible musicianship. Although all the band members are super-talented and each get their chance to shine across the album, Nicole and Kieran have to be singled out for praise. Nicole gets some fantastic sounds out of her fiddle, particularly on the carefree, rollicking yet bittersweet London Life, as well as adding a folky touch on I See People. Meanwhile, Kieran shines with a bluesy riff on the biting You Can Only Die Once (which also features an unearthly yell from SJ at the end) and distorted effects on the dramatic Hurricane with its sense of breaking free and huge acapella finish.
For me some of the album’s strongest moments are in the slower tracks. Frozen In Our Time is arguably the standout of these, with its dark, atmospheric feel acting as a change of pace to what’s gone before. SJ’s soft lead vocals create a haunting vibe, emphasised by the stripped-back approach, and there’s a weight and bleakness to the song from Ed’s heartbeat-like drumming. I also really love the contrast between the traditional feel of Nicole’s fiddle and Kieran’s crashing guitars. It all culminates in some incredible high notes from SJ and you can really feel the pain and anguish in her voice as the song fades to a shimmering finish. Meanwhile, the chilled-out, dreamy Daylight Rising has a laid-back feel which balances initially bleak lyrics with soft vocals before breaking into a soaring, hopeful chorus.
The album closes with I Want No Other Love, which I think is a great distillation of the band’s strength. It features great storytelling, beautiful harmonies from Callum and SJ, gorgeous fiddle playing from Nicole, and is full of warmth and affection throughout. The layers of instrumentation build up throughout the song to a huge crescendo and it’s a really strong, uplifting note to end the record on.
Overall Morganway have delivered a great debut album which showcases how versatile they are as a band, as well as highlighting their fantastic harmonies, stunning vocals from SJ and outstanding musicianship throughout. It’s a record that’s sure to appeal to fans of classic rock from across the past four decades, but has enough of a modern twist on it to make it feel timeless. For those who’ve read Daisy Jones & The Six, this sounds like how I imagine their album would be. They’ve shown great potential and that they’re like no other band out there right now, and personally I can’t wait to hear where they go next.
Track listing: 1. My Love Ain’t Gonna Save You 2. Let Me Go 3. You Can Only Die Once 4. In A Dream (Coming Home) 5. Frozen In Our Time 6. London Life 7. Hurricane 8. New Way 9. Daylight Rising 10. I See People 11. I Want No Other Love Record label: Morganway/UE-Records Release date: 2nd August 2019
See Morganway live on tour in the UK in 2019:
4th August – Waterfront, Norwich (headlining)
7th August – Omeara, London (Supporting CC Smugglers) (SOLD OUT)
10th August – Lakefest, Wales
14th August – The Green Note, Camden (SOLD OUT)
30th August – Millport Country Festival, Scotland
21st September – Little Rabbit Barn, Colchester
26th September – Deepham Festival, Norfolk
28th September – Westview Live, Lincoln
10th October – Epic Studios, Norwich
24th October – Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton (Supporting CC Smugglers)
26th October – King’s Somborne, Hampshire (Supporting CC Smugglers) (SOLD OUT)
31st October – Brudenell Community Rooms, Leeds, (Supporting CC Smugglers)
1st November – The Junction, Cambridge (Supporting CC Smugglers)
6th November – Bodega, Nottingham (Supporting CC Smugglers)
7th November – Gullivers, Manchester (Headline show)
8th November – MK11, Milton Keynes, (Supporting CC Smugglers)