Morganway, Harriet Rose

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It is only a matter of time before Morganway get picked up by a wider audience.

Manchester: Gullivers - 17th October 2021

My first post-lockdown visit to Manchester also sees me at a venue for the first time. Gullivers is essentially a pub that has an upstairs room set up for live music. It is intimate to say the least (capacity around one hundred I would guess, if everyone were close friends) and the stage is rather compact. This was something of a last-minute addition to my schedule, having only found out about the tour a couple of days before, via a post on Facebook.

Opening the show is Harriet Rose. She is a young singer/songwriter/musician who has made a name for herself in the UK Country scene. As well as releasing her debut single, 'Small Town Chains', she has been nominated for awards and has supported more established artists. Thirty or so minutes is not a long time to make an impact, but that is exactly what she did. The first thing that came to mind (and this is a reference many will not be able to associate with) was Jaime Kyle's acoustic set at the 1993 Gods Of AOR Festival in the UK. She has a great voice, a very personable stage presence and great songs to boot. She now has a full band in place so it will be interesting to hear the songs with a bigger sound. Not Rock I know, but an unquestionable talent.

Morganway released their debut self-titled album at the tail end of 2019, so any momentum that may have been building will have been curtailed by the pandemic, which hit just a few months later. The eleven track album was a good mix of Pop, Rock and Country and, having both a male and female lead singer, this has inevitably led to comparisons to Fleetwood Mac. I guess you could also throw Lady Antebellum and the UK's Honey Ryder into the mix, though the Morganway style is definitely one of their own. When they took to the stage the room was probably half full. Despite the small crowd the atmosphere was good and the band got a healthy reception. 'Devil's Canyon' is a nice bouncy opener and despite the limited stage space the six band members cope admirably. 'In A Dream (Coming Home)' continues in a similar fashion before we get two new songs. If these reflect the quality of the next album then it will be well worth waiting for.

My favourite track 'Frozen In Our Time' was included in the first half of the set and, if anything, eclipsed the studio version. SJ Mortimer's vocals are sublime; her delivery both passionate and powerful, and this was a feature of the whole show. Callum Morgan (lead vocals/bass) and brother Kieran (lead guitar) even traded instruments for another new song, 'Halfway Tonight'. They left the stage temporarily allowing Mortimer and keyboard player Matthew Brocklehurst to lead the way through a stripped back version of 'Sweetest Goodbye', another set highlight. The cleverly arranged cover of Alanis Morrisette's 'You Oughta Know' was well received before 'Let Me Go' brought the main set to a close. 'London Life' and 'Hurricane' finished the night off and by then most of the crowd were dancing and singing along. At the heart of the Callum and Kieran Morgan's songs are strong melodies and hooks, with Nicole Terry's fiddle playing an essential part; giving it something of a Cajun feel at times. It didn't matter that there were not a thousand people in the room because the band played as if there were.

A great night all round and I guess something a little different. Based on tonight's proceedings and the material they have to work with it is only a matter of time before Morganway get picked up by a wider audience.

Dave Bott

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