Add Bounce-Worthy alum Morgan James to list of artists who can "shut up and take our money" in 2017. Not only is the genre-defying singer planning to release a new album of originals (her second since 2014's Hunter), she'll also embark on her multi-city Reckless Abandon Tour this spring. We're not sure if the tour's name is an allusion to the album title. What we do know, however, is that the classically-trained Broadway vet is equally captivating in studio or on stage, so we're excited to see and hear what she's been working on.
While we wait for the new stuff, Morgan – who got married to her sweetheart singer/songwriter/musician Doug Wamble last spring – capped off 2016 with a musical project that coincidentally fits the adage, "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." Not wedding music, but a full album cover of Joni Mitchell's masterstroke Blue in celebration of its 45th anniversary. Blue was Mitchell's fourth album, but the deeply personal project is widely regarded as her most definitive collection of songs. So to cover the entire album is pretty ambitious.
As she's already proven on countless occasions (both solo and with Postmodern Jukebox), Ms. James is no slouch when it comes to covering iconic or well-loved songs. Not too long ago, she slayed her rendition of Joni Mitchell's highest-charting hit "Help Me." Plus she's had some recent practice covering full albums, sharing her interpretations of D'Angelo's Black Messiah and John Mayer's Continuum. In other words, Morgan has skills and was more than ready to handle this challenge.
Recording the full 37-minute set in one take with nothing more than a piano for accompaniment, Morgan makes an instant impression as the purity and elegance of her vocals echo the overall beauty and thematic tone of Blue. Roy Dunlap helps recreate the sparse feel of the album with his piano work, melodically fluid yet understated. The duo is perfection, which ironically is the very thing that slightly takes away from the project. There's a rawness, a vulnerability that permeated the original and gave it a soul. Mitchell once reflected, "...there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses....I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy." We felt it in songs like "Little Green," "Blue," "River" and "A Case of You." Having said that, we certainly won't/don't fault Ms. James for being amazing and we're loving her tribute, no question.
Watch a video of the Blue recording below and purchase the audio version via iTunes. Afterward, scroll down to see when the Reckless Abandon Tour will be coming to a city near you. Visit Morgan James' website for tickets and info and follow her on social media for album updates.
Morgan James' Reckless Abandon Tour dates:
March 31: Scranton, PA – The Theatre @ Lackawanna College
April 1: Port Washington, NY – Landmark on Mainstreet
April 2: Pawling, NY – Daryl's House
April 5: New York, NY – Highline Ballroom
April 6: Hartford, CT – Infinity Music Hall
April 7: Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
April 8: Fall River, MA – Narrows Center
April 11: Kent, OH – Kent Stage
April 12: Ann Arbor, MI – The Ark
April 13: Burlington, ON – Symphony Show
April 14: Columbus, OH – Lincoln Theater
April 15: Cincinnati, OH – Ludlow Garage
April 18: Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe
April 19: Chicago, IL – City Winery
April 20: Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall
April 21: Madison, WI – Highnoon Saloon
April 22: Minneapolis, MN – Dakota Jazz Club