Friday, September 5, 2008

Finlay Morton - Back to Basics

When it comes to the blues, blues based rock, alternative blues, hell . . . blueberries for that matter, I usually defer to The Delta Mud Skipper, Field Correspondent for the Dirty South, to give me any words of wisdom. If it’s blue, Skip knows about it. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. I stepped out of Skips shadow, took the teachings of my sensei, and reached into the deep blue something all on my own. I’m not gonna’ lie to you, folks. I was a little scared. Scared that I might like something that wasn’t dripping in dark and evil techno-metal. It’s called musical growth, y’all, and I’d like to think that I’m a better person for it.

Finlay Morton’s Back to Basics is a rich, countrified blues based rock album. Yeah. It’s a mouthful describing the sounds, but that’s because there are so many that are prevalent on the album. The opening track, “Scary Monsters,” has a strong Tom Petty feel to it, but mixed with a darker tone. Picture, if you will, Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” mixed with Petty’s “Into the Great Wide Open.” Classic rock mixed with more classic rock. The guitar solo, provided by Greg Bones, says so much without going all psycho babble with a billion notes. Bones adds so much flavor with this solo and I’m here to make sure it doesn’t get overlooked. Beautiful emotion! Also note the keyboard work as it joins the conversation with the guitars, adding sentiment and soul. The vocals at the chorus are great as well. Morton’s bourbon and cigarette rasp blended with the smooth gospel female vocals in the background, creating another great mixture . . . kinda’ like Jack and Coke. Just as intoxicating.

“The Devil (Ain’t Getting My Soul)” shows Morton’s blues leanings, and the lyrics tell of his strength against temptation. Accompanied by the background vocalists, Finlay Morton sings about his dealings with the devil, and that he may not be a bad dude to hang with, but you certainly don’t want to go into business with the guy. I especially like the last verse where he’s fishing with the devil, but the devil still ain’t gonna’ get his soul. Well written and witty lyrics have consistently cracked a smile on my mug.

Throughout the album, Finlay Morton expresses a variety of levels of sadness and loss. “Real Long Day” has that classic Skynyrd feel with the acoustic guitars plucking and strumming away. The lyrics are poignantly pointed at the loss of a loved one, whether a lover, family member, or a friend. Personally, I started imagining the loss of my dog and how much of bummer that day’s gonna’ be. Hell, I’m getting tears in my eyes just thinking about it. Damn you, Finlay! Too much emotion on this one, brother! Through all of the sadness, there is still a hopeful undertone that keeps the listener from being mired in a pit of depression.

The country tinged “My Friend” is an uplifting tune. Again, strong lyrics that will give you pause if you let them. I’ve always loved it when a lyricist works the words so that they can be interpreted in a number of different ways. This one is fairly cut and dry in that it’s all about loving the one you’re with. It’s who that one is that can make you wonder. Is it a lover? A good friend? God? Multiple levels and it’s all for you to decide. The strumming acoustic guitars remind me of a time when listening to music on the FM stations was everything to a kid. It’s just a great song to reminisce to, which leads perfectly into one of the finest tracks on Back to Basics with “Come Along With Me.” Morton’s voice invokes a strong sensation of Neil Young on “Come Along With Me.” The guitar solo is another great shot from Bones. Simple, to the point, and jam packed with emotion. The lyrics are the true strength of the song as Morton paints vibrant pictures depicting life at the bottom, and the opportunities presented to pull out of the morose life styles that are always depicted as so glamorous. Yeah . . . I could listen to this tune over and over. Great stuff!

With Finlay Morton, you’re not going to get some revolutionary approach to music and songwriting, but you are going to get an honest, from the heart commentary of life, loss, and hope. Strong story telling through lyrics and verse, solid musicianship, and catchy melodies pack Back to Basics from top to bottom. I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled on this disc, though I shouldn’t have been. When I heard the advanced tracks, I remember catching Mrs. Pope out of the corner of my eye, bobbing her head to the rhythm of “Scary Monsters,” and that’s when I knew I was on to something. So, not only does Back to Basics get my thumbs up, but it also gets Mrs. Pope’s head bob of approval. That, my friends, is worth its weight in gold.
-- Pope JTE

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