Written by Frank McClure, posted by blog admin
Sarah Morris’ 3rd and most recent LP, Hearts in Need of Repair succeeds because it thrives with soul, pulls no punches when it comes to songwriting and has a daring arsenal of instrumentation that mixes the traditional with the exotic and eclectic. Morris’ lead vocals are the icing on the cake; highly melodic, raw when needed and possessing an excellent range from dirty blues vocalizations to near falsetto. With a well-oiled band at her side providing guitars, drums, bass, piano, dobro, lap steel and pedal steel, there’s nothing off limits when it comes to the music on display.
The title track leads the album off and it’s an acoustic-drenched, mid-tempo masterpiece with blue-eyed soul singing, a deep rhythmic foundation and at least three acoustic guitar tracks going. There’s space around every instrument to make each individual melody stick-out and the nuanced, textured production job by Eric Blomquist, Morris and the band couldn’t have done a better job. Things aren’t overproduced to the point that there isn’t any edge but everything is refined enough to make a great harmonic impression. The careening, rollicking “Good at Goodbye” benefits from a flurry of tapping, driving snare drums and some stellar pedal steel playing that whips up a western dust storm when it comes to atmosphere. A weary, burden-baring blues vibe marks “Cheap Perfume’s” forlorn intro. Dark electric bass stamps a heavy imprint beneath the shimmering acoustic guitars as the pacing kicks into high gear for the perky country swing that enters at the 50 seconds mark. All throughout Morris’ lush, organic vocal melodies sending the song into the stratosphere and taking the harmonic component of the band’s music to the next level.
“Helium” is a dreamy, acoustic folk number that employs tranquil harmony vocals behind Sarah’s commanding lead presence. Its softness is in direct contrast to “Falling Over” and “Course Correction’s” increasing reliance on powerhouse electric guitar grooves and hard-hitting rhythms. Shane Akers’ dobro and pedal steel enrich the former track with overload of melody and tranquility, providing why it was chosen as the lead single to promote the record. “Empty Seat” returns to acoustic folk but is much darker than the similarly constructed pieces that appeared before it earlier on in the album’s trajectory. The heavy, gluey electric guitar and bass riffs make for some warts n’ all blues on “Shelter or the Storm.” Vicky Emerson adds harmony vocals to Morris’ lead and the result is nothing short of pure magic. More lap steel accoutrements and a 3rd acoustic guitar played by producer Eric Blomquist brushes shoulders and conjures musical catharsis alongside the heavier riffing. “Nothing Compares” is another beautiful folk piece while the closing couplet of “On a Stone” and “Confetti” delve deep into acoustic/electric blues unfolded at a slow, forceful tempo.
All in all, Hearts in Need of Repair is a fantastic aural romp that’s an old soul at heart. Stellar songwriting, vocals and instrumentation combine into a true force of nature that astounds and amazes at every bend. Any fan of acoustic and electric blues, country, soul, rock and folk will find one monumental achievement after another in the album’s 11 rich tracks.