Mary MacGowan,
Morning Glory
(independent, 2010)

Morning Glory is the sort of recording to which the adjective "amiable" -- maybe "quirky," too -- is inescapably attached. It's the creation of a classically trained musician and published poet, Mary MacGowan, who in the middle ages of her life moved to the shore of a lake in northern Michigan.

It's well recorded and intelligently produced, the songs (all originals) set in folkish pop arrangements. They are clearly autobiographical, which would be a strike against them if MacGowan were not a self-aware, grown-up woman who does not appear to take herself overly seriously. One song is built around the refrain "I wish I was cooler." Try to imagine a Joni Mitchell song on that theme.

Moreover, the songs have sturdy -- in other words, more than purely functional -- melodies. They also have wry sentiments and humor. What they don't have is the self-pity that gives singer-songerdom its too often deserved reputation. It isn't hard to discern the influences. MacGowan could be a Roche sister who moved to the country. She could be a McGarrigle sister, too. These are worthy influences, and MacGowan absorbs them the way influences should be absorbed: sufficient to emerge from them with enough of her own voice to ensure that she's interesting on her own.

The woods, like the city streets, are thick with singer-songwriters. MacGowan, who is far better company than most, should not get lost in that population explosion. Morning Glory introduces a genuine talent, not to mention an amiable and quirky one.

music review by
Jerome Clark

27 November 2010

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