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Sam Morrow

There is No Map – 2015 (Forty Below)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Sam Morrow

It isn't surprising that Sam Morrow's rugged, often ragged approach to contemporary country readily conjures up comparisons to Steve Earle, Jason Isbell and Merle Haggard. He fancies himself as the same sort of grizzled, no-nonsense troubadour whose insurgent sound puts him well outside the mainstream. On his striking sophomore set, "There Is No Map," he shows that he's unafraid to pursue his own muse, even if it means of stating emphatically exactly what's on his mind. "We're all just fucking liars," he defiantly declares on "Wasted Time," addressing the subject unequivocally without regard for politeness or pretence. Indeed Morrow's gruff vocals and steadfast delivery show obvious intent. "Green" finds him railing at those who might somehow be placated by the empty promises preachers and politicians offer up all the time. "The same old bullshit don't make your grass green," he chides his listeners, and given his irascible perspective, it's clear he isn't interested in hearing any argument to the contrary.

Fortunately though, Morrow isn't simply a contrarian. The sprightly "Train Robber" sounds like it could have been snatched from the John Fogerty songbook, if the piano playing wasn't quite so prominent. The touchingly tender ballads "Hurts Like Hell" and "There Is No Map" suggest that he can express both anger and emotion in an honest and vulnerable way. Indeed, that ability seems to come naturally; Morrow's debut album "Ephemeral" found him struggling with the twin demons of addiction and depression and doing so without any remorse. And while its title suggests there are no easy answers, "There Is No Map" affirms the fact that Morrow is determined to find a way out of the abyss and face all the obstacles necessary.

That road is frequently rocky, and it's littered with temptation, but as these songs consistently make clear, he's willing to take whatever risk is necessary. A compelling collection spawned from an irascible attitude, this sophomore set shows that Morrow is a pundit who wants to be reckoned with.