Morgan Wade’s debut album starts with a stated desire, the wish to have known the object of her affection from the “wilder days” of the song’s title. He may have just blown in from Windy City, but he’s older and potentially boring, anxious about their age difference and the smell of cigarette smoke. However there’s a hint of hedonism in his past which keeps her interest – he used to smoke when he drank. So much for sensible love interests, but from Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child (Wild One)” to Springsteen’s “Candy’s Room”, rock and roll has often prized wildness as an essential characteristic (we understand this is not the case for a life in financial services).
“Wilder Days” is a fine song (making Time Magazine’s ten best songs of 2021), compact and literary, written by Wade with Sadler Vaden (solo artist and long-time guitarist for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit). Wade and Vaden clearly have the knack, with a number of well crafted, jointly written songs on the album; the smouldering “Matches and Metaphors” dryly declares “when it rains it pours, to hell with the metaphors”. The melancholic “Northern Air” benefits from fine detail, recalling someone “with your whiskey and your ginger/back of the bar, drunk in early September”, and “a red wine stain on my white dress/that I bought to impress you”. Grammy and Dove Award-winning producer, writer and musician Paul Ebersold joined Wade and Vaden to co-write the catchy farewell to addiction and “the fun that we had”, “Last Cigarette”. Ebersold and Wade also turn in the tough display of “Don’t Cry”.
Ebersold co-produced the album with Vaden and both play on the album (deep breath – Ebersold on drums, keyboards, Mellotron, piano and synthesizer and Vaden on bass, guitar, 12 String Acoustic, acoustic, electric, keyboards, Mellotron, piano, synthesizer, background vocals). In addition to these two, Jimbo Hart (Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit) adds bass, Derry Doborja (also Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit) contributes keyboards, Mellotron, piano and synthesizer, with Jamie Dick (Lake Street Dive/Rhiannon Giddens) and Fred Eltringham (Gigolo Aunts/Sheryl Crow) assisting with drums and percussion. They are a proficient team and deliver an impressive sound, with Wade’s vocals swooping and soaring emotively.
The album takes on familiar themes for rock and roll but avoiding cliché. There’s the fast love of “Mend”, some hard living, strung out from pills and booze, on “Other Side”, the desperation to feel something in “Take Me Away”, and the struggle for sobriety in “Met You”. On the tile track Wade heads into vehicular Springsteen metaphor, driving fast with no headlights and hurtling into a gnarly consideration of the meaning of freedom.
The album effortlessly blends rock and country, and was named one of the 50 Best Albums of 2021 by Rolling Stone magazine. As is the fashion, the album has recently been reissued as a deluxe version with six additional tracks. They are interesting extras. “Through Your Eyes” considers the responsibility of being an unexpected role model, and “The Night” asks whether it’s “a rule down in the South/that you can’t talk about your mental health?”. There’s the wanderlust of “Run”, again written with Vaden and the thumping rebel song “When the Dirt All Settles”, written with Vaden and Jaren Johnston. Also included are the rousing “Carry Me Home” and a cover of “Suspicious Minds”. These additions ensure the deluxe version is a worthy investment or, if you’re coming back for more, re-investment.
Label: Sony Music
Release Date: 28 JAN 2022