Sarah Morris – Ordinary Things Album Review
Guest reviewed by Jennifer Brooke
We’re on the brink of spring here in northeast Ohio. The drab gray sky looms overhead threatening rain but hope of better weather hangs in the air. Well past the holiday season, most of us are completely over the occasional steady snowfall and the hot drinks that fill us with a warm and cozy feeling. Bring on the rain and flowers that will usher in the sweet season of summer!
For those of you who long for summer during these spring-not-spring-sometimes-still-winter days, there is relief in the form of Sarah Morris’s album Ordinary Things, which released in 2015. This twangy singer-songwriter offers rich vocals and poetic lyrics that will fill your mind with satisfying images of backyard barbeques, freshly cut grass and suntanned legs that end in battered leather boots. At times her tone reminds me of a less refined, less polished version of mainstream country artists, and I mean that in a refreshing way. I mean it in the way that her rawness seeps through her talent, making her more accessible to the listener; her lyrics more aligned with real life and more believable. Other times, her tone and style remind me of Norah Jones, specifically her Broken Little Hearts album, but with the added twang. Just imagine a summer evening filled with fireflies as you enjoy ten tracks of country flavor, lustrous vocals and insightful lyrics, all artfully executed.
The album opens with “Brighter,” an upbeat song with an enjoyable melody. Its beginning is tender and simple, the song is sweet the whole way through. Morris sings of how a special person in her life, probably a romantic interest, is like a spark, one which causes so much fire and ordinary things to sparkle. The world shimmers where otherwise things would just be plain old ordinary.
In “No Memory,” the sweetness fades to resentfulness. She sings of someone who brings her down like gravity, someone who has a hold on her that she can’t escape. Her heart is one with no memory of her tears or heartache or pain. In the third song, “Sway Me,” she pleads for someone to pull her from the middle. She’s halfway here, halfway gone and just needs a little nudge, a little bit of pull in the right direction. Yet, it seems unresolved by the close of the song and she has been left in the middle.
“Nice Girl” is a confusing song. She puts on a smile and acts like a nice girl, yet says she could be so much more than a nice girl. I’m not sure if it’s a facade, or she truly is a nice girl, or if she’s pretending to be a nice girl but actually is not. Either way, it’s an upbeat and interesting song.
The tempo of the album slows with the crooning melody of “You Still Have Me.” This one is all sugar without the spice, reflected in the trumpet serenade throughout. “Lie Here Tonight” is a complicated song where Morris poignantly uses the word “lie” in a few different ways, the subject of the song an affair. “Lie here tonight” as in “lie in this bed” opposes “lie here tonight” as in to tell a non-truth to be with a lover.
“The Strong One” is a soft song, augmented with a fiddle. Morris beckons him to be the strong one for her, to remind her how to stand on solid ground while she promises to be steady when he’s the one feeling uncertain. It encompasses the give and take of true love, where two people consistently, constantly meet each others’ needs so that each are cared for.
An instrumental introduction begins “Used to Be Mine” like the lingering over a distant memory. In the song, someone reminds her of a moment lost in time, a place she left behind because now he only reminds her of what used to be hers. The song is sweet without being mournful because she focuses on the sweet memories of their togetherness rather than fixating on the absence of what used to be hers.
“Careful, Careful” warns that he should have been more careful and honest with her because she’s fragile. Then she shifts the blame to herself, confessing that she should have been the careful one, the one who should have picked up on his inauthentic intentions.
The album closes with “Hope, Sweet Hope.” I like the play on words of the old phrase “home, sweet home.” Every day is a day where something good can happen, and she chooses to believe in hope, sweet hope. Hope, which Morris refers to as wide open spaces, is a mindset rather than a physical “home.” In closing, she urges listeners to consider the joy it brings when finding beauty in ordinary things. That’s the true meaning of hope, sweet hope.
All of Morris’s songs encompass life, ordinary life with our relationships, experiences, memories and range of emotions (for better or for worse). There is beauty in the simplicity of the material of her songs. She says exactly what she means to say, not wasting any breath on extraneous lyrics. Nothing more, nothing less. Her songs spring to life with rich yet ordinary imagery of colors, breezes, sunshine, fire, etc., that evoke the beauty and passion of life. I love that she begins and closes the album with the consideration of “ordinary things” and their impact on the story of life. Ordinary Things is the human experience as a series of songs.
Sarah Morris is currently touring in Minnesota, her home state (dontcha know!). Since the release of Ordinary Things, she has teamed up with Vicky Emerson to form a country/Americana duo they’ve dubbed The Home Fires. Together, they are writing songs (guitars, pianos and harmonies) for their debut album and will be touring the Midwest this year! Stay tuned, fans!