The first EP release from Georgia native James Patrick Morgan, Art + Work = Love, is a formidable five song collection. It includes one cover, but the remaining four songs are Morgan originals revealing him to be just more than a transformational performer. Morgan is a talented songwriter too who manages to mesh the disparate elements of R&B, soul, pop, and rock music into a vivid weave of sound while retaining the necessary coherence to get over with his intended audience. This is dynamic, intelligent, and physically engaging music. Morgan may just now be making his full-fledged commercial debut, but the performer and writer powering much of this EP’s success is clearly, in every respect, a polished artist. Art + Work = Love covers an impressive gamut of human emotion and experience within its brief span and it will undoubtedly resonate with many listeners.
The EP’s opening track and single “Expected” is a romping R&B influenced number lent an extra spark from horn flourishes and a swinging beat. Morgan’s voice locks onto that swing from the beginning and his gentle, yet confident, phrasing ably guides this lyric about hard won lessons. It’s a great first example of his talent for taking potentially thorny subject matter and recasting it in an appealing pop/light rock oriented structure. His pop and light rock leanings here, however, are never shallow. The blend of instruments is perfectly balanced and has real depth, but the musical touch remains remarkably fleet footed and melodic. “Alone” has a bright keyboard bounce and an insistent percussion pulse, but the vocals sell the song more than any other single factor. There’s some light backing vocals peppering a few points in the track, but Morgan’s voice otherwise dances like quicksilver over the instrumentation. The bridge brings a particularly key point as the song slows down for a brief duration and the percussion changes gears before it launches back into the song’s final quarter.
The track “Sign Language” takes an early, surprising musical turn when the beautifully arranged piano gets set in counterpoint to some busy drumming. There’s a very live feeling to this track that distinguishes it from some of the other performances and the song crescendos at all of the right points. “Right Mistakes” begins with some direct acoustic guitar strumming before there’s some piercing electric guitar lain over the top. The verses are more muted, but there’s a gathering intensity building towards one of the album’s best choruses. “Right Mistakes” has a relatively straight-forward melody that the band fleshes out to something greater. His cover of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle” embraces key parts of the original while still thoroughly modernizing the song for his target audience. It’s likely that fans of Miller’s version will find much to admire in his respectful re-envisioning of the classic. The guitar work is quite good and serves the cover well. Art + Work = Love is as polished as a first effort as any artist can dream of and reflects Morgan’s advanced development so soon in his journey.
9 out of 10 stars