Luke Morley “Songs From the Blue Room”

Conquest, 2023

A nod to Americana from hard rock guitarist, Luke Morley.

Luke Morley will be a name known to many a hard rock fan. He was an original member of Terraplane and, when that band folded, became the guitarist, chief songwriter and producer for what was their replacement band, Thunder, who have, in turn, become a mainstay of the London rock scene. Now he has released what is his second solo album, following 2001’s “El Gringo Retro”, called “Music From The Blue Room” and it has been hailed, by some, as an unexpected turn to americana.

As we all know, recent years have seen many rock artists try their hand at an americana album, with various degrees of excess…sorry, success! So, how does Luke Morley fare as the latest rock star to prostrate himself at the americana altar? Well, it’s not at all bad, if something of a mixed bag. On first playing, it sounds like a set of songs that were that bit too light for his main band and found their way onto this solo album. Repeated listening reveals a lot of subtlety in some of the musicianship and there’s definite hints of americana around a number of the tracks.

Several of the tracks still carry a softer rock identity and on tracks like  ‘I Wanna See the Light’, ‘I’m the One You Want’, and ‘Damage’ it’s hard to see that Morley has strayed that far from his original roots. If we think about Americana and how we define it, accepting that it is quite a fluid definition, it does need to include some aspect of roots music – a little country, folk, and/or blues mixed in with the rock and roll. Morley clearly comes from a blues-rock background and the blues links are still there to be heard, with the use of power chords and blues-rock riffs and rundowns on some tracks, but there are elements of folkier influences as well on some of the more interesting songs.

Perhaps the best of the bunch, from an Americana perspective, is ‘Lying to Myself’, a lilting love song that starts off with a harmonica riff and strummed acoustic guitar and has some elements of folk and country and some nice harmonies that stray a little into Beatles territory, but americana fans will find a lot here to enjoy. Elsewhere we have ‘Errol Flynn’, a nice song about faded glories that has something of an Eagles feel to it, and there’s ‘Watch the Sun Go Down’, that has a Springsteen/Heartland Rock vibe. At its worst, the album sounds a bit like Jon Bon Jovi around his “Young Guns II/Blaze of Glory” period (no bad thing considering the success of that particular album), and by that, I mean that some of the songs occupy that indiscriminate middle ground between soft rock and americana.

Now, it’s probably worth saying that it doesn’t look like Luke Morley himself has ever claimed this as an americana album and probably doesn’t think in those terms. All the tracks are very well played and, in most cases, almost entirely by Morley himself. This is, yet another, lockdown project, where Morley was isolated and used the time to write and record tracks at home. As a result, nearly all the instrumentation and lead vocal work comes from Morley and he shows himself to be a very capable musician indeed. Once the lockdown periods were over he was able to take his home recordings into Rockfield Studios to put the finishing touches to the album. Outside of Morley, the only other musician to feature on all tracks is drummer Dave McCluskey, ex of The Bluebells and a fine choice for the album, plus there are some guest musicians on various tracks. All in all, it’s a well played and produced album and one that’s very easy to listen to.

Having said all this, while “Songs from The Blue Room” isn’t overwhelmingly an americana album you can hear how, with a little bit of work, Morley could move in that direction if he wanted to. The songs on the album are all written by Morley and he’s a talented songwriter; Thunder have some 14 studio albums to their name and, as chief songwriter, Morley has clearly been honing his craft for some considerable time. Where they sometimes fail as americana tracks is when Morley sticks to a blues-rock structure. Working with another writer that has a background in country, or other roots music areas, might encourage him to work on the structure of some of the songs and move them into different territory. It’s also a very guitar-driven album, with the occasional piano-led track, so it lacks the variety we tend to associate with roots music. It has some very good string section work, courtesy of The Bryden Quartet, but it’s a more traditional pop wash than we would associate with roots recordings.

While not really what we might think of as a roots-based recording, this is a good album with some nice nods in the direction of an americana sound, and Luke Morley could well re-create himself as a Heartland rock musician if that’s what he wants, it wouldn’t take much work for several of these tracks to sound at home on a Mellencamp or Springsteen album. What the album does do is make you think about where soft rock gives way to heartland rock and whether there’s more to the various labels put on different kinds of music than a simple marketing exercise. Morley has produced an enjoyable set of tracks that moves him away from his more traditional rock material and it will be interesting to see where this solo journey takes him. What’s next for Luke Morley?


About Rick Bayles 354 Articles
Now living the life of a political émigré in rural France and dreaming of the day I'll be able to sing those Cajun lyrics with an authentic accent!
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