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Wonderlight - Click to view!Although Wonderlight is the first time he's graced the cover of a CD, Trevor Morgan is hardly a newcomer to the world of music. Moving to Nashville after college, the Montgomery, Alabama, native spent the better portion of the mid- and late '90s working as a songwriter and worship leader. Near the end of the decade, Morgan teamed up with critically-lauded indie pop artist Will Owsley to help write three songs for Owsley's 1999 self-titled Grammy-nominated debut, including the Top 30 single "I'm Alright." Morgan earned a slot later that year playing bass in Ginny Owens's touring band and went on to write the radio singles "With Me" and the title cut for Owens's 2002 Something More album. Around that same time Morgan's modern praise ballad "Fall Down" was featured on Geoff Moore's A Beautiful Sound release and the Let Your Glory Fall project from Phillips, Craig & Dean.

For his own debut effort, Morgan marries hearty, full-bodied vocals like those of Bob Seger to the stripped-down, guitar-driven rock aesthetic of artists such as Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp. "Bring on the Peace" and the infectious leadoff cut, "Upside Down," augment Morgan's energetic roots rock with modern pop flourishes in a sort of Sheryl Crow-meets-Tonic sort of way. The lilting title track, on the other hand, harks back to the classic power pop of groups such as Badfinger and Big Star. The aforementioned "Fall Down" neatly ties poignant lyrics to an instantly memorable chorus. And the meaty guitars and decidedly spiritual lyrics of "Oh Hallelujah" call to mind everything that was good and right about the straight-ahead late '80s Christian rock of acts like Russ Taff and Geoff Moore and the Distance.

For one whose music is so elemental and direct, Morgan shows surprising eloquence and subtlety with his lyrics. "Fall Down" ("Take my prayer / Hear my cry / Only you can satisfy") paints a magnificently moving encapsulation of man's longing for God. "Welcome to You" ("It's sugar cane on your tongue / A speeding train to take you home / To all that you were meant for") is a similarly evocative description of the believer's new identity in Christ. Songs like "Upside Down" ("Gold streets / Covered in concrete / I covered my tracks / But not the cracks / In my foundation") show impressive insight into human nature. And the language of the title track ("A crowd has gathered on a hillside / To see what lay beneath the star / A host of angels bearing witness / That you are") is both poetic and grand.

In fairness, the album loses a bit of steam near the end. Musically, entries like "All About Me" and "Love Leaves Its Mark" are somewhat nondescript, and the wording of songs such as "Move in Me" and "The Back of My Mind" ("You're always in the back of my mind / I think about you all the time") falls likewise just shy of original. That said, Wonderlight's stronger portions constitute a fine forty-minute record in their own right and more than compensate for the weaker material. And Morgan's down-to-earth, bar-band-friendly approach to music making works as a refreshing counterpart to the current glut of note-perfect teen pop and faux angst-filled emo. Ten years after first setting out to pursue his dream, Morgan's patience and perseverance have at last been rewarded with the most impressive Wonderlight album.
- Bert Gangl
June 2004
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