Cary Morin has a voice that is as strong and expressive as to Van Morrison’s and the sensitivity of James Taylor, but his songwriting is strictly his own and even on the three songs on Cradle to the Grave that he did not write, his interpretation is highly personal.
The music varies from blues to country to folk and is probably best defined as Americana, or in this case, Native Americana, since Morin is a member of the Crow tribe, originally from Montana.His heritage makes it into his imagery and subject matter, and yet the music has Delta and country roots. He is a superb fingerstyle picker, playing acoustic and occasional steel guitar and making the listener stay involved with no other accompaniment.
The album starts out strong with “Cradle to the Grave,”a plea for protection on life’s journey, and then Morin really shows off the finger- picking in “Laid Back,” a fun song about fishing and relaxing.”Dawn’s Early Light” is my favorite track and reminds me of both Morrison and Taylor while delivering a timely message about standing up for what you believe is right.
“Lay Baby Lay” features more of that incredible, intricate picking, in a song about being homeless yet happy.”Mishawaka” is a haunting tale that showcases Morin’s story-telling skills and is another album highlight. “Mississippi Blues,” one of the three songs not written by Morin, catches the soul of Delta blues in a remarkably authentic way from a man born and raised so far away. It offers fine blues picking.
“Ghost Dog” is a fascinating track, with its mythological creature who is a “proof of probability,” making him both ancient and modern. “Trust” makes use of some sharp imagery that reminds me of Dylan. “Back on the Train” is one of the songs not written by Morin, but this fast country blues suits him and fits in perfectly.
“Nothing Compares to U” proves not only what an innovative interpreter Morin is but how very adaptable Prince;s songs are. It’s a great, slow, heartfelt country take and it works very well indeed, making it another standout track.
“Watch Over Me” brings things full circle with another cry for protection in this life. This one is more bluegrass than blues and brings to mind Ralph Stanley in its plaintive tone.
Morin is definitely a modern troubadour well worth hearing, and Cradle To the Grave is a great album.