Morgan Wade “Reckless”

Ladylike Records, 2021

Indie country with a mainstream rock’n’roll and pop attitude.

This is an interesting album for americana fans, and not necessarily for all the obvious reasons. While Morgan Wade is only 26 and ‘Reckless’ is her debut solo album released via Thirty Tigers, she has managed to get respected producer and engineer Paul Ebersold to co-produce with Sadler Vaden, guitarist with Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, to help bring her songs to fruition in the studio and co-write some new ones.  It seems it was Sadler Vaden’s crew who brought Morgan Wade’s music to his attention and he was in the market to produce someone. Morgan Wade hails from Floyd, Virginia, and has been playing live for the last seven years and she can’t help the big dose of Virginia that is in her music and the twang in her vocals is natural. However, that is where things start moving away from the norm in that Morgan Wade’s sound is deliberately an amalgam of rock ‘n’ roll,  pop, country and americana and it is this more mainstream sound that supports her well-crafted songs. The level of industry support for a debut album is evidence that big things are expected for Morgan Wade and some are hinting that she may be one of the first artists from the indie country wing to break through into the musical mainstream in a really big way.

The songs on the album are at least over a year old and reflect the fact that Morgan Wade was going through a period of self-assessment and trying to work out who she is and, as such, are very personal. The album opens with one of the early singles, ‘Wilder Days’, which is one of the co-writes with Sadler Vaden and is about how much you need to know about a partner’s past with electric guitars certainly giving it a rock ‘n’ roll feel that it sets the tone for the whole album. We could be back in the ‘90s with a hint of alt-rock on ‘Matches and Metaphors’ which asks how do you write a love song that avoids the obvious clichés and is in a more stripped-back musical mode. ‘Don’t cry’ was the first single from the album and is a co-write with Paul Ebersold that was written in the studio and is about being your own self-critic. Wade goes back to her time with the Stepbrothers for ‘Mend’ and the lyrics and vocals can tear at your heart if you let them. Addiction and desire are compared on ‘Last Cigarette’ and love is again at the centre of ‘Take Me Away’ which also showcases Wade’s country side. Title track ‘Reckless’ certainly has dark undertones and shows that Wade is adept at various musical settings. ’Northern Air’ has a percussive beat and again shows country tones but this is a song with dark undertones. ‘Reckless’ ends on a high with ‘Met You’ which wears its sadness with pride.

The album cover makes a feature of Morgan Wade’s tattoos, which include not only her hands but full sleeves and neck, and they are featured in the lyrics on ‘Reckless’. They are a visible sign that she is her own person and the real deal as well as a talented singer and songwriter whose lyrics have a personal honesty and who has made the sort of album she wanted to make. The album’s length of 10 songs means it has the feel of a classic album with no obvious filler. The question for listeners is do they want the pop and rock ‘n’ and roll overtones as well as the clear echoes of her Virginian roots? If the answer is yes, then this album does not disappoint. If you prefer your music with less mainstream overtones then you can still appreciate the craft of the album and songwriting and wonder what a less mainstream sound would have delivered.


About Martin Johnson 399 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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