Getting Lost In The Unique World Of Portland’s Morning Ritual
Listening to music all day, everyday the way I do, it’s always exciting to find an act with a unique and distinctive sound, regardless of genre. Portland, Oregon’s Morning Ritual is certainly that as the project between composer Ben Darwish and twin sisters Katelyn and Laurie Shook is perhaps best described as “R&B-Fantasy-Folk”… or something thereabouts. Darwish’s lush and jazzy compositions meld fantastically with the Shook twins’ silky and sensual vocals in a very unique and unexpectedly pleasant way that’s held my attention since first hearing the group’s intriguing sound.
Morning Ritual’s self-released debut The Clear Blue Pearl is a concept record that tells the story of a man and his wife suffering through such a horrendous drought that they venture underground to find a mystical aquifer know as The Clear Blue Pearl. It’s an enthralling album that recalls The Decemberists’ excellent concept album The Hazards Of Love, another record that benefits from having two strong females singers. The band’s website describes The Clear Blue Pearl‘s plot this way (the caps were the band’s choice):
AFTER A DROUGHT PLAGUES THEIR LAND, A MAN AND HIS WIFE SET OUT IN SEARCH FOR THE “CLEAR BLUE PEARL”, AN AQUIFER WHICH IS RUMORED TO BE CLOSE UNDERGROUND. AFTER A HARROWING SEARCH, THEY FINALLY DISCOVER THE UNDERGROUND OASIS THEY’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR, BUT ONCE THEY DECIDE TO MAKE IT THEIR NEW HOME, THEY REALIZE THEY MAY HAVE SETTLED ON UNSTABLE LAND.
Now before you start rolling your eyes thinking about how much The Hobbit films have sucked and how weird LARPing is, I assure you the mystical storyline keeps your attention throughout the record. Darwish’s ornate arrangements are wonderful melanges of sound and emotion which pair with the Shook twins vocals perfectly. The moods vary from straight up folk to soaring, hopeful excitement to jazzy and smooth R&B. From the Beatles-indebted title track, to the jammy outro in “The Search” and the slinky sexiness of “Tunnel Of Light”, Morning Ritual keeps The Clear Blue Pearl unique and intriguing, listen for yourself via the band’s Bandcamp free stream:
Another factor in my admiration for Morning Ritual is their newly released single “So Cold”. The unique R&B the band flirted with on The Clear Blue Pearl is in full swing here, as “So Cold” feels like an amalgamation cool ideas filtered through a rhythm and blues lens. The Shook twins’ vocals are smoky and ooze sex, and the music varies for smooth-as-butter R&B to funk before dropping into a guitar outro that would make Steely Dan blush. Another reason to keep your peepers on this up and coming band.
Morning Ritual tour dates:
May 14 Holocene Portland, OR
Jul 11 Oregon Country Fair Veneta, OR
Jul 12 Oregon Country Fair Veneta, OR
Jul 15 Columbia Park Annex Portland, OR
Aug 06 Music on Main Street Portland, OR