Soul man Morrison adds some much needed grit to his overly-polished sound

13 years ago James Morrison was marketed to death as the vital young and earnestly authentic voice of British soul.

A flurry of early hits seemed to have secured him a place in the new pop pantheon (his second album, 2008’s Songs for You, Truths for Me, topped the Irish album chart) but since blotted out by the natural charm of George Ezra and the blandishments of Ed Sheeran, Morrison's star has waned.

You’re Stronger Than You Know also arrives after five years of emotional and professional tumult. He lost his father, brother and nephew and was also dropped by his record label. The good news is that upheaval means that there is a lot more bite and conviction to these new songs.

A sprinkling of grit and Stax swing makes Feels Like The First Time an album stand-out, and Power is a blast of vocal sandpaper with parping brass with Steve Cropper-style guitar sparking away. The deeply personal Slowly also burns with real commitment and an explosion of a chorus, while Don’t Wanna Lose You hits a pleasing groove.

That voice remains as powerful and distinctive as ever and Morrison sounds like he’s finally breaking free of the overly-polished soul pop of his earlier work. A well-judged balance of pain at what has passed and optimism about what’s to come.

James Morrison plays the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on April 4th

Alan Corr @CorrAlan2

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