Any Joshua Morrison review that fails to mention that he sounds exactly like Mark Kozelek (most notably of Red House Painters) should be called into question. The vocals on “Commerce Street” are so similar to Kozelek’s hushed and wavering tones you might get to thinking that some sort of switcheroo has transpired between the two: Morrison usurps Kozelek’s place in the indie spotlight, and Kozelek assumes Morrison’s life -- in the army.
That’s right: Morrison’s debut, Home, was recorded after he returned from Iraq, and he remains active in the military. This came as some surprise to me, and revealed a certain irony of popular music I continue to participate in: Morrison is the only songwriter I can think of who I look to for voice and conscience (over matters of war) and can also speak firsthand about an experience in the military.
Yet Morrison’s Home does so tenderly, sidestepping protest songs and anti-war anthems, uncovering instead the simple hopes of a twenty-something walking the line between duty and longing. With a knowing inflection, Morrison sings about the things he missed, hoped for, and dreamt about while stationed in Iraq, revealing through simple acoustic arrangements the heart of, in some ways, many soldiers like him. The title track expresses a quiet realization upon his return: “Oh my God/ I nearly died/ When I saw you in that dress/ I felt alive for the first time since I left home.” For someone with firsthand combat experience, the soft-spoken lyrics on “Madness” are poetic and hard-earned: “When I see your face/ It gives me hope/ For something more.”
Although folks like Kozelek (or me, for that matter) might not be so quick to trade places with Morrison, and young Morrison himself offers no solutions for the current occupation in Iraq, a quick look through his MySpace profile offers one distinguishing perspective: one picture shows a small ethnic girl looking out from the inside of an armored truck; another, a sketch of mountains and pine trees. It appears that Morrison has and will continue to make connections with all spheres of his world, and what’s so beautiful about this release is its quiet recognition those simple actions: honesty, connection, and awareness.
"There are so many soldiers who make music, write, do things outside of the military," he says. "I’m just one of them." It's encouraging to think that Morrison’s success could bring forth more talent from within a group of men and women who might be looking for a similar place to reside, somewhere between duty and a place called home.
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