Choosing a classic painting like Turner’s ‘The Fifth Plague of Egypt’ for an album cover takes courage. To set such high standards for an album before the first track has been played is risky but in the case of The R G Morrison’s Diamond Valley, the decision is completely justified. Then again, given that lead singer Rupert Graeme Morrison spends his working days surrounded by albums in his Devon record shop, it should come as no surprise that some thought has gone into this. The dark, biblical quality of the painting sets the scene perfectly for an album about regret, disillusion, and, ultimately, redemption all set to a brooding Americana reminiscent of Neil Young, Mojave 3 and Loch Lomond. Morrison’s gentle, yearning vocals perfectly compliment the sense of quiet loss that pervades the album. The result is truly remarkable. This is without a doubt one of the best albums that will be released this year.
Diamond Valley is a concept album that deals with no lesser themes than the losses, disappointments and saving graces that are to be found in any life. Its major triumph is that despite this ambition it never strays into pretentiousness or sentimentality. Take White Church, an all to rare example of a realistic love song. In other hands a song that begins with “We’ll get married in a white church/ Everybody will come and watch,” would be a sure sign of schmaltzy cliche. It soon becomes clear, though, that this is a song of real substance with the lines, “I know your mind and I know it seems/ That I’ve taken all your dreams.” The ability to express a great deal in a couple of lines is in evidence again the brilliantly titled Love Saved the Nineties. The song begins with the lines “They don’t build them off the line/ A face like yours takes time,” before reflecting on how a love affair saved an otherwise lost decade.
The album’s standout track is Sweetheart, a tale of the powerlessness felt by the parent of a wayward adult. The feeling of helplessness is perfectly captured by the repetition of the line “I’ve done all I can to keep you safe.” It is Slumber, though, that ties the album into a truly coherent whole. In this song the melancholy of the album is turned into anger as Morrison repeats the line, “what good is praying to someone who knows how you feel?” Morrison’s straining vocals give this song a real emotional power, which is just as well given that he damaged his vocal cords in the process of its recording.
Weary finishes the album off on something of a positive note. This, though, is not a tale of victory, triumph or happiness. Rather, it is about the process of reconciling yourself to life’s disappointments. Doing so will be a little easier for those that make the time to listen to this excellent album.
Review by: Alfred Archer
The first single from the album ‘Diamond Valley’:
Diamond Valley is released on 11 November via Static Caravan
Order it from the best record store in the world:
Drift Records in Totnes