Tuesday, 21 July 2015

BETHAN AND THE MORGANS

CD Review

Oddity

The West Midlands have produced some fantastic and original musicians and they are well listed elsewhere so don't need to be repeated here, but there is one thing you should do and that's add Bethan and the Morgans.

Bethan Edwards
You can see there are great many influences in their music but at the heart of it is the remarkable voice of Bethan Edwards.
Her singing is solid, clear, strong, gentle, emotive and a real pleasure to hear.
It was she, along with David Ross who started the group in the Midlands and pretty soon decided they needed more sounds so filled the band out with Lauren Bennett, James Rhodes and Dan Foster who make up the Morgans.
Their first full album Oddity is about as cool as a debut album gets, there is so much in it to enjoy with the sounds of folk, country, a little bit of soul and a real retro strand which crops up every now and again.
The opening of the album is quite understated, but immediately introduces you to the beautiful tones of Edwards which have a similar quality to Dolly Parton. It has that strength and depth while maintaining a certain innocence and untarnished quality. It Won't Be Today is only just over two minutes long but it's enough to for you to get hooked on Edwards' voice. It's a simple song, almost a spiritual but its simplicity both in the form and execution are what make it extremely appealing.
The track almost segues into When It Falls Into Place. This gives vent to their country side with Edwards sounding even more like Parton, yet there is enough of her personality in there to make you realise she is not imitating. It's a ballad, pretty much in two parts, the first a straightforward song but the beat picks up and has a sixties slightly hippy-ish feel to it.
The harmonies which open up under Edwards' voice on Time Lost on Your Side give it the feel of a choir before she takes the lead. It does remind you of Ann Murray's Snowbird, it has that country travelling beat to it which is carried along by Edwards and the rest of the band on harmonies and accompaniments. You again hear that Parton-like warble in her singing which is so endearing and will certainly get country fans to warm to her and the band.
Bethan and the Morgans
All At Once is quite strange in the way it starts, it's a bit like walking into a club where they have already begun singing the track. It's more soulful than the previous tracks and on the top of Bennett's accentuating double bass and Rhodes' guitar work you get a serious feel for the depth and emotion Edwards has in her voice. With Changing Every Day she sounds remarkably like Kelly Oliver another female singer and musician who is making a big impression on the folk scene. With the way Edwards sings and writes, there is no reason why she isn't going to do the same.
She moves over to a more rock/blues sound for Running strangely enough this time the music is much stronger and in your face yet Edwards seems to keep her voice on a leash when you feel it naturally should be let loose. It's almost as if she is determined to go at her own pace and the music can either keep with her or go it's own way, either way it works as an excellent track and is a real boot heel banger.
Parted Ways could easily be Running Pt II, the galloping country sound is almost ethnic with Foster keeping the infectious running rhythm going. It's where Edwards voice stands alone and you really get the essential sound of the songstress.
Coal and Soot is eerie and slightly bizarre in that it's only 42 seconds long and consists purely of the melancholy vocal harmonies. It feels a little like a weird introduction to the title track. Edwards has this slightly manic quality to her voice having to fight for recognition over the tinny sound of Foster's percussion. But you do get a real feel for the clarity of her singing and the band work really well together to produce a genuine sit-up-and-take-notice track. It has to be said Edwards displays a real sensuous, close to down and dirty side to her voice. Oddity is without doubt one of the best tracks on the album. Going back to her gentler side, Edwards follows on with the gentle ballad Something New. This introduces a country/mountain sound with some really slick picking on the banjo to add colour.
The debut album
The last but one track is Edwards showing off her verbal dexterity. Go Away is pretty close to a tongue twister and sounds very much like both Edwards and the band having some fun before closing the album. Which they do with Inconceivable Way which takes the album out pretty much as it came in with a classy ballad. Edwards once again showing what an incredibly versatile and emotive voice she has.
If you know of the quality of music and musicians who has come from the West Midlands then the title of the album, to some degree, is a misnomer in that there is nothing odd about a band from the region producing a top notch set of songs such as these.
Oddity is officially released on Monday July 27 but you can get an early release on Friday July 24 when the band do a pre-release concert at Katie Fitzgerald's, Stourbridge at 8pm. Tickets are £5 and the album will be on sale there.