Jess Morgan – Crosses

EP Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

Jess Morgan’s long awaited debut album is recorded, in the can and ready for a bright pair of ears to stumble upon, preferably someone with distribution connections, and one who is prepared to get this ball rolling. In the meantime Jess has managed to finance the release of a single/EP, call it what you will, in order to tantalise your musical taste buds. I first encountered Jess beneath a riverside cinema in York, opening for American visitors Rod Picott and Amanda Shires on a chilly October evening back in 2008. The handful of songs Jess performed that night stayed with me for days afterwards and I’ve periodically scanned her website and MySpace pages for news of an album release in the hope of hearing those songs once again; songs like “Onyx” and “Due Grace Coming”, to name but two. “Crosses” was the third song I remember from that night, a song I referred to back then as ‘outstanding’ in my live review. I still think of this song as outstanding as it appears on this recording, which was recorded in a studio in Norway, far from Jess’s home of Norwich, and a world away from the city of York, where I first met her. In a recent interview I asked Jess how the album was coming along and the circumstances in which the four tracks were chosen for this single release: “It’s recorded, mixed and almost mastered, ready to go, twelve tracks, that I’m really really proud of but the aim of the single is to drum up as much interest in the music as possible”. The three other songs that make up this release are “Pamela”, “Gut Row” and “Who Killed Cock Robin”, all of which showcase Jess’s versatility as a songwriter, with subjects ranging from family dramas, the local fishing industry of Great Yarmouth and the obligatory song about ‘talking birds and frogs and animals and things’, which any self-respecting folk singer should have in their repertoire. The four songs included here are sparsely arranged to include little fuss apart from the odd bit of slide guitar, a touch of bass and some atmospheric violin, all of which allows us to concentrate on Jess’s unique voice and the individual songs themselves. “There’s no drums on there but there are other instruments” Jess pointed out. “I kind of ummed and ah’d about whether it was going to be completely pure and just me, but I thought well I do that live so I’ll offer people something else”. That ‘something else’ largely consists of some atmospheric fiddle courtesy of David Vogt and some inventive slide guitar work from co-producer H.P. Gundersen, the Norwegian musician who Jess corresponded with over several productive months, culminating in the recording of these twelve songs. Hopefully it won’t be too long until we have the complete set.