Concept albums demand some suspension of disbelief and a little imagination from the listener. When the story being related is in the realm of epic fantasy, as is the case with Morning Ritual's The Clear Blue Pearl, the imagination required to follow the story is right up there with a game of Dungeons & Dragons or an afternoon of LARPing.
None of which should dissuade you from listening. This is a passionate, ambitious project that stretches the range and comfort zones of everyone involved. Morning Ritual's Ben Darwish, best known as a versatile jazz and pop keyboardist, transforms into an entrancing, prog-y balladeer. His pipes meld beautifully with those of Shook Twins, who are also treading entirely new territory from their usual folky fare. Once or twice, the story—about a drought-ridden family's quest for an underground oracle that will replenish its land—gets in the way of the fantastic vocal and musical arrangements. More often, the fantasy elements are a cool extra layer on a record generous with sacred moments—the sparse piano lines of "The Drought," the incredible vocal twists of "Tunnel of Light"—that sound unlike anything that has come before them.
SEE IT: Morning Ritual plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with De La Warr, on Thursday, May 16. 9 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21 .