Froots Magazine. UK
In a songform once so familiar it drove us all to distraction, Morton now ploughs a determinedly lone furrow. His recent adventures into the tradition have evolved into a fairly unique absorbment of the folk song form, that serves him in his socio-political documentation of current events and the human condition. The frequent links between the two is integral to the approach on this brave, starkly simple album. Just one man, an acoustic guitar and a bunch of songs that invariably contain more depth and meaning than may at first be apparent.
The Two Brothers, in particular, is bound to court controversy with its analogy of the Middle East as two naughty boys who need their heads banging together. The Government Wall would appear to be a sad, rather than bitter, denigration of New Labour while George Slew The Dragon hints with dark mystery at other demons entirely. Yet no track is more evocative of Morton's increasingly evocative writing than Naseby Field, based on a 17th-century battle during the English Civil War and structured like a traditional song through the eyes of a soldier in the field of battle, with nightmarish visions of the future. Throw in a love song or two and a couple of chorus songs you just know will raise the roof in a folk club and you have a stripped-down album that takes you back to the very soul of the singer-songwriter's art... with none of the introspective self-indulgence that sent the genre fleeing to the hills.
The Midnight Special - WFMT Chicago
With each CD he (Pete Morton) has jettisoned a bit more of the unnecessary frenzy until this CD, which reveals the naked diamond. It's just the voice and guitar of someone who has earned a place among the best singer-songwriters of the 21st century. The songs on this CD cover an amazing array of topics from politics to love, tragedy and comedy. All of his songs, no matter how dark, have a silver lining of optimism. His expressive voice serves his songs well.
Living Tradition. Dec 2003
I used to think that Pete Morton was just another guitar playing singer- songwriter so didn’t bother to go out of my way to see him. Then I heard ‘Another Train’ performed by the Poozies - Sally Barker in particular – and I had to search him out. I found his version to be wonderfully moving (check it out on his hits CD), but also that he was an amazing interpreter of traditional song. I now had to see him live, something that was not too difficult as he lived locally at that time. What a performer! So imagine my joy when this dropped through my letterbox for review - but what if it was not up to scratch? I began to worry. I plucked up courage and opened the CD player drawer… That was days ago and it is still in there… ‘Swarthmoor’ named after a favourite place of Pete's is quite simply brilliant, just him and a guitar with eleven of his own songs. Right from the first track about the Middle East conflict I was hooked. Everything else had to stop. There are highlights around each corner. Each song is sincere in its message and well crafted. It feels as if a lot of love and care has been put into these before Pete has let us share them. I don't usually select individual tracks but it would not be doing this CD justice if I didn't. 'Listening to My Boots' appears to be about a countryside walk but is much more; ‘The Luckiest Man’ tells the story of his own parents' romance; ‘Six Billion Eccentrics’ takes a common phrase and develops it into a catchy sing-along item, whilst ‘Goodbye to Oil’ is quite extreme in the message put forward. Maybe there isn’t another ‘Another Train' here. But ‘St. George Slew the Dragon’ may prove to last in people’s minds long after Pete has finished the gig, or the CD player has been turned off for the night. The recording is of a high standard, the insert clear with readable lyrics and informative sleeve notes. Swarthmoor" should do well especially if local radio stations give it airtime. Thanks Pete for an excellent offering, a contender for a place in those end of year best albums – not that I get asked for my Top 10!
MOJO - February 2004
Pete Morton - Swarthmoor - Harbourtown.
A minimalist but scintillating set from England’s best kept secret.
Like a ghost from the old singer-songwriter age, Morton has long flitted in the shadows of modern folk music. Representing a denigrated genre, he’s perennially overlooked, which is a travesty, for if we ever needed a songwriter of his edge and passion, it’s now. Isolation seems to have hardened his resolve, and the stark simplicity of the arrangements and production on this totally solo effort underlines his provocative lyrics, charged vocals and deft guitar. A fascination with traditional ballads serves his own writing well, from the Two Brothers, a courageous song scolding both sides of the Middle East dispute; to Naseby Field, a human tale of the English Civil War; to The Government Wall, which sounds like a parable of disillusionment with New Labour. Yet a touching sentimentality and sense of optimism undercuts his work to diffuse any polemic tendencies. He has a great way with a chorus too.
Review from "Glasgow Herald"
Pete Morton, Swarthmoor (Harbourtown) FOUR STARS [out of five]
Leicester-born Pete Morton has been a talent deserving wider recognition for some fifteen years, during which he's drawn on history and the English, Scottish and American folk traditions to present songs dealing with current concerns - in this case the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, political disaffection and diminishing natural resources - as part of a living troubadour continuum.
Recorded with just his voice and guitar, the eleven songs on this, his seventh solo album, are the mature work of an artist in total control of his faculties, able to express social commitment, love and humour alike (Six Billion Eccentrics reveals him as a Mars Bar short of a selection box) in a voice that's rich, warm and full of honest persuasion.
Net Rhythms - Pete Morton - Swarthmoor (Harbourtown)
Those who persist in dismissing our Pete as just another singer-songwriter-with-guitar obviously haven't seen him live or given more than a passing listen to his many uniformly excellent records. Arguably the self-confessed inventor of the Urban Folk genre, Pete has been ploughing his distinctive furrow for some years now, fusing his own equally distinctive worldview with a deep love of traditional song (which he also interprets extraordinarily well, though not as such on this present CD). If you're familiar with the work of the admirable Robb Johnson, he shares with Robb the qualities of absolute integrity, wedded indissolubly to a genuine compassion and acute political awareness and a real gift for the craft of songwriting. Oh, and he needs no gimmicky instrumental distractions to smother his songs with - that battered guitar's just perfect thankyou. Pete's songs thoughtfully point up the parallels of life experiences and aspirations and philosophies from people of different backgrounds and eras, and he has an unerring ability to penetrate to the core of those experiences with a well-chosen phrase or pithily connected thought. Contrast Love Stood In My Way, couched in a quasi-traditional song mode, which exposes the contradictions of advice and perspective in relationships, with The Luckiest Man, a tellingly poignant tribute to the love between Pete's own parents. Or the two songs ostensibly depicting rambles (The Shepherd's Song, inspired by John Clare's journey to London, and the altogether more philosophical Listening To My Boots). Or the more overt, uncompromising political statements of The Two Brothers and Goodbye To Oil. And The Government Wall, which is a masterly portrayal of a powerless loved individual's resignation in the face of corporate indifference, contrasting with the hopeful message of St. George Slew The Dragon. Then there's the sense of continuity with history throughout, most potently in Naseby Field. While the rousing chorus song Six Billion Eccentrics really is "the best thing since sliced bread" in bringing out Pete's cheeky sense of humour. But in all Pete's songs the catchy simplicity of their execution disguises the considerable depths of thought and insight. Now I've come to the end of the review and I realise I've listed virtually every track - and the CD really is that good. Go get it!
Pete Morton - "Swarthmoor". Harbourtown - HARCD 044
This is a very straightforward, pared-down record; just Pete's voice and his acoustic guitar. What else is needed when the songs and the performance are of this remarkable quality? Those who try to hear Pete frequently will probably have heard these songs performed live on a number of occasions; certainly they give the feel of having been thoroughly sung in before these excellent recordings were made.
It's all his own compositions this time and most of them like "The Two Brothers", "Listening To My Boots" and "Six Million Eccentrics" are surely destined to become classics. We are listening to a very talented songwriter, probably at the height of his powers.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, let's state again that Pete is one of the really huge talents working on the folk scene who has yet to be fully recognised for the outstanding quality of his work.
Back to main review page