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R.G. Morrison: Diamond Valley

Reviewed By: Maarten Schiethart
Label: Static Caravan
Format: LP

When you, like me, do not like Anthony and the Johnsons, because frankly speaking he's a whiner, but you do appreciate exquisitely worded empathy set to beautiful music, then R.G. Morrison's third LP is mandatory listening. Straight from the heart but still using his mind, R.G. Morrison's 'Diamond Valley' is pure cross-Atlanticana. It is not as formal and restrained as British folk music sometimes tends to be, but not as sloppy in its loose American languish as alt-country.

Thoughtful and sprinkled with moments of depressing contemplation, the album maintains a gentle tone. 'Diamond Valley' meanders along thinly drawn lines with its softly stricken chords and calmly composed lyrics. Perhaps as a non-electronic Radiohead type of band, R.G. Morrison, the person and the group bearing his name, reveals a sense of vulnerability that surfaces in the first female vocals on the album, which proclaim that "You don't know how miserable you are." The next song's lyric - the husband replies I assume - reads , "And words you say, they can hurt/And so better, and for your word?/Well I'll guess you must feel pretty sad." Towards the end there are the lyrics: 'Our sun rises/Our sun dies here'. There is no happy ending to this visit to 'Diamond Valley'.

An intricate and personal LP, 'Diamond Valley' bars out the common truth. What's behind the secrecy on this tender folk album makes for even greater guessing, but its overall mystique helps to make this a rather majestic set of songs. 'As the Shadows Grow' and 'Cursed by the Hands and the Ghosts They Breed' build lines hinting at gloom and doom. As miserable as the lyrics are, the music, however, like that of contemporary blues music, tickles with optimism.

"What good is praying to someone who knows how to defect?" is another memorable line that will strike a chord with many. Unmistakingly of grand stature, this LP embodies deeply personal lyrics in a warm bath of mesmerizing pop folk ballads. Even greater music from R.G. Morrison may still lay ahead.

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