Curious that an artist as based in traditional music values as Daniel Ward-Murphy has to resort to a very modern method of financing his debut album. Then again, in 2009 anything goes as artists stray down unconventional routes to make sure their voices are heard.
Ward-Murphy’s album is a product of the Sellaband website, set up two ex-Sony BMG staffers and linked to Amazon, whereby new artists attract ‘believers’ to raise the $50,000 budget required to record an album.
All of which is a good back-story, but MySpace and its ilk have all helped propel countless talent-free artists into the mainstream. Inevitably, the question is whether Ward-Murphy is good enough to repay the faith of his believers.
Yes is the short answer. The involvement of veteran producer Tony Platt is one of many plus points on this project – independently released albums should not sound this good, with every nuance crystal clear and precise.
Ward-Murphy deals in classic singer-songwriter material but manages to steer clear of the dreaded James Blunt trap, courtesy of a winning singing voice and a melodic touch that is instinctive rather than contrived.
The artist who most readily springs to mind is Jackson Browne, with Ward-Murphy sharing the same eye for detail that allowed the SoCal native to steer clear of many of the traps that his contemporaries fell into.
Another comparison can be made to Gram Parsons, with Ward-Murphy’s extensive use of female vocalist Jan Delaney throughout the album bringing to mind Gram’s collaborations with Emmylou Harris. It’s a winning combination, adding greater impact to songs such as The Sun Is In Your Eyes and In This Fair City on which Delaney takes a prominent role.
The album rarely strays from its prominently acoustic style, one that it settles into quite nicely following the poppy opening track She’s A Knockout. The closing Act Of Defiance marks another rare foray into up-tempo territory.
Ward-Murphy’s is ably backed throughout by his live band, with the basic set-up of guitar, drums and strings providing a suitable accompaniment to his confessional songwriting style. His vocal tone throughout is largely spot-on, albeit sounding slightly forced on the more upbeat tracks.
There is a fair chance that Ward-Murphy could achieve mainstream success on a par with Blunt and James Morrison. There are certainly a fair few tracks on Until The Morning Light that could appeal to the all-important female market that bought into those two artists. In reality, Ward-Smith’s heart lies in songs such as The Genius Of Myra and My Beautiful Predicament, whose twisty melodies and oblique lyrics mark him out for cult status.