Review of Unguarded Album by Rae Morris

Perhaps one of the most surprising features of 2014 musically was a resurgence in domestic artists amongst the UK's best sellers, a charge led by the likes of Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith which saw the once dominant Americans left outside the top 10 for the first time in years.

Rae Morris Unguarded Album

There were many reasons for this - some, if not all, appearing to be in some way related to Taylor Swift - but the main takeaway from it seems that our love affair with the singer songwriter remains unquenched. Also notable was the re-emergence of Kate Bush for a lengthy string of well, challenging live shows, the reclusive doyen reconnecting with press and public alike to remind us that despite her weaknesses for over-elaboration, she remains one of the 20th century's most iconic Bohemians.

Both of these facts will surely hold some fascination for Rae Morris, a 22-year-old from the North West who's a big fan of Bush and, with her début album 'Unguarded', is about to enter into a log-jammed solo market with a work of distinction. Nurtured by her major label over the last three years in a way that suggests they feel they have a potential talent not to be rushed, it feels like a body of work conceived in a New York loft rather than the faded glamour of Blackpool, but whatever Morris has been channelling as a muse, the results seem set to catapult her into the public's conscience.

Having been playing keyboards and piano since before she was at school, it's no surprise that she makes the instrument - one she feels retains its sense of romance in the digital age - the focal point of many of 'Unguarded''s songs. It's a decision that, along with an occasional tendency for sparseness in her arrangements as showcased on opener 'Skin', leaves an impression with the listener of purity, a lack of emotional clutter. Showing uncommon poise, her repertoire bears all the hallmarks of being allowed to grow organically away from the pressure of hit making, hence 'Under The Shadows' flits between a rumbling, epic drum crescendo and grown-up pop body, impressively a dead ringer for 'Tango In The Night' era Fleetwood Mac.

Praise indeed, but there's also a contemporary stripe to 'Unguarded' as well; the radio friendly R&B overtow of 'Closer' holding the keys, it would seem, to many doors. This olive branch to the mainstream doesn't end there: there's even a spunky, angst laden prequel to Gotye's 'Somebody I Used To Know' on 'Cold', a duet with Fryars that feels like a remix away from transporting both of them to half a gazillion YouTube hits.

For all this might be making the suits excited, Morris allows herself more than enough leash from orthodoxy. The title track, for example, de-layers both the words and any sense of confusion, a love song buoyed by a sense of genuine warmth and harmony, whilst just as eloquently showcasing her fragility. 'Don't Go' is as welcoming. If there are minor quibbles, the 12 song span feels a little overdone, and the singer hasn't quite learned how to craft words in a truly Everyman syntax, but this is almost certainly us being awkward. 'Unguarded' is the first album of 2015 that underlines the belief that our indigenous talent should rule the roost again, whilst at the same time announces that a major new talent has also arrived. Happy New Year!


Andy Peterson


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