Artist: Cary Morin
Album: Cradle to the Grave
Label: Maple Street Music
Release Date: 01/13/2017
Montana-raised, northern Colorado resident Cary Morin is a Native American who continues to evolve as one of the best acoustic pickers in roots music. He combines soulful vocals with insightful songwriting to deliver a compelling solo act that was strong enough to earn him the Colorado Blues Challenge Championship for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014. This is his third acoustic album, completing a trilogy that also includes Tiny Town and Streamline. Morin’s scope on this project is fairly broad, encompassing blues, folk, his Native American Heritage and small town life. While some songs have a pretty simple structure, the complex fingerpicking in others is exemplary. Morin sums it up this way: “The goal was to create a sort of triptych of my solo fingerstyle journey, one that demonstrates the evolution of my progression with songwriting, finger picking and the use of open tunings. Cradle to the Grave is a culmination of my musical efforts as a soloist thus far.”
Eight of the eleven tunes are originals, with some interesting cover tunes mixed in from Prince (“Nothing Compares 2 U”), bluesman Willie Brown’s “Mississippi Blues” and even one from Phish (“Back on the Train”). Listening to the first and title track, it certainly seems that there are more musicians aboard, as Morin plucks the bass strings and uses his voice in different octaves, creating the effect of another harmony singer and bass player. Yet, it’s all him. “Dawn’s Early Light” showcases his soulful vocals as he sings rather passionately about supporting the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He has this to say, “…This song may be an oversimplification of the situation, but I have always felt that the honoring of the treaty, no matter when it was made, is not a complex idea. History has proved this not to be the case, but I hope this time it is. Honor the treaty, simple as that.”
With “Ghost Dog,” although Morin’s finger picking style is more finessed than Kelly Joe Phelps’ percussive style, somehow the vocal treatment and style itself is similar in effect. The following track, the album’s longest at over five minutes, “Trust,” creates a completely different, rather melodic vibe, akin to great folksingers like Bill Staines or John Gorka. Thematically, the album centers on mortality as heard on the title tune, “Lay Baby Lay,” and the closer, “Watch Over Me.” Apart from the lifting melodies, the album is balanced with lyrics that speak to hard-earned wisdom and a rather subtle spirituality that grows slightly with each listen. Mostly, you need to listen repeatedly, maybe one time for his riveting guitar picking and the next time for the lyrics. It’s almost too much to take in at one time.
Also, keep an eye and ear out for Young Ancients, a band that Morin plays in along with John Magnie and Steve Amedee of the Subdudes. So, even though he is primarily a solo performer, we know he keeps good company.