What do jazz, blues, soul, and folk have in common? The answer is simple: Russell Morgan.
Hailing from England, the singer-songwriter’s latest album, Begin Simple, is a simple medley of all of these genres, and then some. While the phrase “simple medley” may sound a bit odd, there really isn’t any other way to describe Morgan’s sound.
When picked apart, the individual aspects of the album are able to stand on their own as elementary compositions. However, as each element comes together one begins to realize that they are anything but elementary; every rhythm, beat, and melody is masterfully interwoven within an acoustic backdrop, making the listener realize that this album’s simplicity is far more complex than it first appears to be.
Russell Morgan Creates Deceptively Simple Beauty
Simplicity at its finest has the ability to introduce a new realm of possibilities. Though at times underrated, even the most basic compositions can add just the right amount of energy to perk up a listener’s ears.
What Russell Morgan manages to do in Begin Simple is something of great difficulty: he brings together a range of musical elements that are individually straightforward, but when put together create an entirely new thought process. “The idea was to get out of the box,” said Morgan, “[to create] new dimensions within these stories.”
“Begin Simple,” the album’s title track, begins with a serene keyboard accompanying Morgan’s deep vocals. The instruments within this song sound like they’re having a conversation with Morgan’s vocals, bouncing off of the steady beat and smoothly complementing the verses of the song.
It’s quite a start to the album, incorporating such a varied mix of genres that it’s hard to compare it to just one obvious thing. The subtle hints of blues, jazz, and funk that are hidden among Morgan’s vocals and the various layers of instrumentals make the track one of the strongest on the album.
Songs like “Right In The Corner” and “Shady Grove” set the overall tone of the album; a mellow acoustic guitar riff accompanies a steady drum as Morgan coos over the tracks’ melodies. This mood, however, plateaus over the course of the album; the gentle melodies extend to the next few tracks until the album’s 7th track, “I’m Alive,” making the middle section fall flat of the variety it started with.
A final beam of hope, the album closes with “Begin Simple (Reprise),” circling back to the same strong energy that it opened with. As Morgan sings “begin with a simple question / end with a simple answer,” over and over again until the track’s close, the audience gets a hold of a taste of the complexity tucked inside the simplicity of the album.
While Begin Simple falls short of supplying its audience with a strong amount of tonal variety, the honest way Russell Morgan presents his folk roots gives the album enough character to become a decidedly good one.