Album Review: Maren Morris - “Hero”

We finally got around to reviewing the newly minted CMA Award nominee’s debut for Columbia Records.

It’s been a magical year for Columbia Records’ newest star Maren Morris. After years of working with publishers and songwriters to craft a sound that was identifiably her own, Maren Morris partnered with busbee to craft Hero, her 11 track major label debut. Twice-nominated for a CMA Award, “My Church” is the kind of opening salvo of a debut single, not only reaching radio airplay’s Top 10 chart but also becoming one of late 2015’s most critically-acclaimed singles, a single which is only the gateway to a record full of interesting melodies and lyrics.

Comparisons to Little Big Town, pop star Meghan Trainor and even Taylor Swift makes sense as does a comparison to fellow upstart Kelsea Ballerini but make no mistake, Maren Morris is very much her own artist. The statement making, pulsating groove of “Sugar” is followed immediately on Hero by “Rich,” a song which feels like the lovechild of Little Big Town’s “Pain Killer” and Steve Miller’s “The Joker” in melodies and vibe with lyrics which are relatable to anyone climbing the ladder. Mid tempo ballad “I Could Use A Love Song” (written with Laura Veltz and Jimmy Robbins) is a place where Maren’s voice shines quite nicely.

Second single “80s Mercedes” felt immediate and obvious from the moment it came across my speakers on her EP from last year and that hasn’t changed once a bit. You can hear steel guitars mixed in the background along with the progressive 80s-inspired percussion and overall melody. Given the song’s content, it’s an obvious — and nice — touch by busbee and Maren (who co-produced the project). Morris, who is signed to a deal with both Nashville and NY offices of Columbia Records, showcases her crossover potential on “How It’s Done,” the same which can be said for “Just Another Thing” and “Once” (and opener “Sugar” of course).

Marin Morris is a dynamic talent. A true triple threat of writer, performer and producer. She deftly balances the country and pop worlds on Hero and while some will certainly think that should disqualify this project from any country music lists, it’s a damn fine record and the deluxe version featured at Target (which includes “Company You Keep” from the EP and “Space” along with “Bumming’ Cigarettes,” a song which recalls Kacey Musgraves) is even more impressive.