Bloomington, Indiana-based singer/songwriter Chris “Harry” Doran, aka Blind Uncle Harry, has in recent years proven himself as one of the most talented purveyors of modern folk rock. Sometimes his songwriting has a topical bent, yes, but it reaches a level of timelessness thanks to Doran’s penchant for universality. His new single “Courage to Love”, however, has a far more insular and personal touch while still stretching to communicate with his growing audience. Harry has released two albums thus far, 2020’s The Gospel According to Blind Uncle Harry and 2022’s Visualize Industrial Collapse, and “Courage to Love” boasts the same sound and approach as the songs on each collection while never outright repeating himself.
The song’s message is straightforward and never dates. It’s an introspective song that considers the price of admission we fork over to hold true to our dreams. Such a subject harbors the potential for a full-on wallow in sentimentality. Harry, however, avoids that by juxtaposing the message with a bright, life-affirming arrangement and ample backing vocals that give “Courage to Love” a decidedly upbeat flair.
He dispenses with acoustic guitars and other retro instrumentation in favor of minimalist electric guitar and a simple backbeat. The three and a half minutes plus running time for “Courage to Love” breezes by listeners in seemingly half that time and the direct construction of the tune will strike a familiar chord for casual fans and longtime music devotees alike. While no one can claim Harry is trying to remake the songwriting wheel with this performance, it nonetheless boasts individuality and freshness setting apart from scores of peers and contemporaries.
His unadorned and plaintive vocals are ideal for the arrangement. You hear Harry engaged with each line, there’s never any coasting, and his commitment to the material comes across from beginning to end. Anyone coming into this single expecting a patchwork indie production job should check their fears at the door because what Harry offers us instead is clear and unfettered sonic architecture that radiates warmth and physicality in equal measure.
You certainly can’t quibble with the song’s subject or motives. Nor can you find fault with the mechanics of Harry’s singing, the backing vocals, and instrumentation. Blind Uncle Harry’s “Courage to Love” serves us with an unvarnished and spartan track whose style, in the end, connects more with folky indie alt-rock than Americana. No matter, however.
It connects and that’s all that counts. Listeners will come away from “Courage to Love” with a smile on their face and feeling uplifted by Harry’s uncluttered vision and wise clarity. There isn’t a heavy-handed moment during this track. It shows that Harry’s development as a songwriter continues unabated and that his best work, his peak, is still in front of him. Each new release builds on the last and “Courage to Love” ranks as one Harry’s finest tracks yet. It holds up under repeated plays, as well, without losing any of its inviting aura.