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 .