The short version: ‘Borrowed Heart’ is mostly well-produced and well-written, and Heather Morgan can sing with the best of them. But the album also wears out fast and becomes predictable rather quickly.
The long version: Heather Morgan is the latest songwriter in a long line of many to step out from behind the scenes and craft her own project. After writing songs for (and with) the likes of Dierks Bentley, Lindsay Ell, Lori McKenna, Michael Ray, Kenny Chesney, Randy Rogers Band, Keith Urban, Martina McBride, and Brett Eldredge, it was time for her debut album, Borrowed Heart to be unleashed.
Borrowed Heart is an interesting album to discuss. On one hand, it’s mostly well-produced. the songs themselves are all fairly strong, and Heather Morgan herself sings the hell out of every track and note here. What may just hurt Borrowed Heart overall though is its lack of balance and variety.
The album adopts a formula rather quickly in regards to song structure and themes. It’s a break-up album, but most of the songs reach for the same sentiment with little differentiation. Moreover, the majority of these tracks are ballads that follow a standard formula of restrained verses before unleashing huge choruses both vocally and in terms of production techniques. What this means is that Borrowed Heart can start to feel familiar and predictable rather quickly, and eventually, for as good as the songs are individually, they start blending together quickly as well.
Borrowed Heart at least starts strong though. “We Were A Fire” and “Morning Light” are two of the darkest cuts on the record, with the former opting more for atmosphere and the latter adopting a moody, Gothic edge. The former track is also a good use of the aforementioned formula. The emotion of these tracks usually comes alive during the chorus, with Morgan’s voice reminiscent of both Lee Ann Womack and Maren Morris. In terms of pure power and emotion, she’s hard to beat on this album.
“Arms Of A Lion” with Lori McKenna providing background vocals is one of the album’s better ballads. The atmospheric production allows the song to breathe, with soft acoustics and drums anchoring the space rather than overtaking it. It’s elegant sounding and one of the more poetic tracks lyrically.
Toward the back of the album, “I Always Did,” where Morgan is joined by fellow songwriter Ross Copperman, is a cheesy ballad that somehow manages to work due to a more serious tone.
Lyrically, the album’s main focus is the aftermath of a breakup. While the songs all connect with one another, they also connect too much to the point where the elements are indiscernible from one another. With the exception of the aforementioned tracks, Borrowed Heart also relies on a soft instrumental mix of acoustic guitars, piano, and drums before adding electric guitars for soaring choruses. It becomes noticeable quickly too, as while “Arms Of A Lion” is an excellent track, the preceding track, “Your Hurricane” is the same song told in a more generic fashion. In other words, the focus here lies more on the main theme rather than the story or details surrounding said theme.
Again though, they’re still well done on a technical level mostly, but every now and then you’ll find a more basic cut like “Still Think About You” where the album’s formula starts to show itself. “A Hundred Miles” at least features a restrained feel all throughout, but on the flip side, we also get one of the few upbeat cuts on the album with “Highway Robbery” which features an unflattering, choppy chorus.
“Paper” also feels like it’s carrying an empty hook, especially when the entire premise revolves around the damage caused by the relationship. It seems to contradict itself though, as “your words are as sharp as a razor” seems to be a more effective line than the actual hook of “you cut me like paper.” “Speckled Bird” is the only unfortunate point where the vocal layering during the chorus tarnishes Morgan’s otherwise gorgeous voice.
The album ends on a high note with the title track though. It at least takes a different, more interesting route lyrically and is the one spot where the production gets completely out of the way and allows Morgan to shine.
This all leaves Borrowed Heart in a weird place though, as while it is good in every area on a technical level, its overall sameness makes it feel a lot longer in length than it actually is. Still, Morgan is an incredibly talented vocalist, and with a little more variety added to the lyricism and overall structure, she has the potential to make something truly excellent. For now, Borrowed Heart remains an interesting, but frustrating listen.
(Decent to strong 06/10)
- Favorite tracks: “We Were A Fire,” “Borrowed Heart,” “Arms Of A Lion (feat. Lori McKenna),” “Morning Light”
- Least favorite track: “Highway Robbery”