CD Review of Undiscovered by James Morrison

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starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Interscope
Released: 2006
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Fans of Ray LaMontagne, meet James Morrison. Better yet, fans of Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Van Morrison, meet James Morrison – the kid is only 22, but he’s already drawing comparisons to legends. Morrison’s debut, Undiscovered, is finally gaining traction in the U.S. after going platinum almost immediately in his native U.K.

And it’s easy to see why. Not only does Morrison possess the kind of smoky, gruff, and soulful vocal that comes around a few times in a generation, but his songs, even though he co-wrote them all, are equally impressive. And to say that he sings them with conviction is as obvious as saying that pizza tastes good.

There is truly not a bad track on Undiscovered, but the opening piano-driven mid-tempo rocker, “Under the Influence,” sets the table for what’s to follow. “You Give Me Something” is a soulful ballad that may remind you of a young Stevie. That is not a comparison that anyone should take lightly, but there it is. The up-tempo bluesy rocker “Wonderful World” is good, but Morrison keeps bringing it with the brimming-with-soul title track and the throaty, grooving “Call the Police.” The acoustic gem, “Better Man,” and fitting closer, “The Last Goodbye,” are also gritty and muscular. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a clunker on this set, and these days that is saying something for an artist’s debut.

If James Morrison doesn’t vault himself into the level of success of, say, John Mayer or David Gray, then something is wrong with the music-buying public’s ears. It’s too soon to predict the success of any of the others mentioned above, but in time Mr. Morrison may find himself comfortably in that kind of company. Meanwhile, Undiscovered is a fitting title, but not one that should label this gifted young artist for very long.

~Mike Farley