Born in County Tyrone, Bernadette Morris made her musical debut with 2013's All The Ways You Wander, a mainly traditional collection in both English and Irish, which received great critical acclaim and extensive radio and television airplay. This was followed by her EP Where the Heart Is in 2018 – a collection of original heartfelt songs, drawing on her own life experience. Since then, Bernadette has supported folk and traditional music legends including Cara Dillon, Eddi Reader, Brian Kennedy, and Julie Fowlis. Bernadette and her band have also toured Germany, Belgium, the US, and Australia, including appearances at Folk Alliance in Kansas City, and the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington, Victoria.
She released her highly anticipated new album To the Well for Water in May 2023, ten years on from her first album release.To the Well for Water explores the themes of life, self-belief, love and faith, drawing on Bernadette’s personal experiences to produce an uplifting and positive album, containing a stunning mix of self-penned songs and co-writes with Johnny Brady, Declan Sinnott, Cormac Neeson and Matt McGinn, amongst others.
Bernadette Morris said: “As it has been ten years since my first album release, I wanted to make something that really reflects my feelings right now, and all the things I’ve learnt over the past few years. I had a lot of material that I wanted to record – some great songs from co-writes and some entirely of my own composition that I wanted to share with the world.”
Accompanying Bernadette’s beautiful, distinctive vocals are Seán Óg Graham on guitar, accordion and bouzouki, Gerard Thompson and Anthony Toner on guitar, Marie Morris and Ross Holmes (Mumford and Sons) on fiddle, Joanne Reihill and Matt McGinn on backing vocals, Rohan Young on bodhrán, Stephen Loughran and Kieran Brady on tin whistle, Ryan Beagan on bass, Enda Scahill (We Banjo 3) on banjo, Ben McAuley on drums, Johnny McCullough on piano, and Paul O’Reilly on saxophone.
The inclusion of saxophone and double bass on the album are new additions to Bernadette’s signature sound, adding a richness and complexity which complements her unique voice perfectly. A number of tracks on the album were self-penned by Bernadette, the first time in her career she has recorded and released songs entirely of her own creation. Rainbow After A Storm came about during a songwriting workshop with legendary Irish musician John Spillane, and was inspired by Bernadette’s experience of having her three children after three missed miscarriages, and wanting to create a song of hope and solidarity for anyone facing similar heartbreak. Better Way was inspired by a flight from Boston to Kansas City for Folk Alliance back in 2015.
Bernadette recalls: “As I looked out of the window, all the fields and roads had lots of straight lines and everything was in good order, except for this river which was weaving and wisping through them all with no heed to the straight lines and boxes. This song is about not always taking the straight path in life and having the courage to take the road less travelled.”
The tracks Not Alone, a co-write with Anthony Toner, and Calling Out Your Name, co-written with Scottish singer-songwriter Bob McNeill, explore Bernadette’s Christian faith, something she has not previously incorporated into her songwriting. During lockdown, Bernadette recognised that many people were returning to their faith or exploring their beliefs when the churches and traditional places of worship were closed.
Bernadette explained: “This is a very personal album but I think a lot of people will be able to relate to the songs, whether they share my beliefs or not. Working with such a talented group of musicians to bring the songs to life was an incredible experience and I couldn’t be happier with the final sound we achieved. I hope people enjoy listening to it and hearing the love that went into making it.”
This new album comes after four singles launched in 2020 and 2021, including co-writes with stellar members of the Irish music scene Eleanor McEvoy, Ríoghnach Connolly and Arborist’s Mark McCambridge, which garnered radio play nationally and internationally including playlisting on RTE Radio 1 and plays on the Mark Radcliffe Folk Show on Radio 2, and BBC and TG4 television appearances. Bernadette was named by Hotpress Magazine in 2020 as ‘One to Watch’, and rightly so.
Morris' vocal is so unique that immediately attracts attention of the listener. In the opening track Fanore, previously released as a single and a teaser for the album, the influences of trad music are simply undeniable. You can almost feel the breeze on your skin and the sea on your feet as you listen. A love letter to the sea and to the favourite place that is always welcoming.
The album combines mellow and more introspective tracks with more upbeat ones such as the catchy country Leave all your Troubles. You cannot sit still for this one. It is calling out for you to get up and dance.
Haunting title track carries a powerful message of getting the courage of being yourself and leaving the relationship you're not happy in. "Took me far too long to trust that voice inside" says it all. Gentle vocal delivery hides the strength within. Strength to be who you are meant to be, without having to prove anything to anybody. Those who truly love you will love you unconditionally for who you really are.
Let Go is a seemigly playful waltzy number with, once again, a strong message that resonates.
Closing track Rainbow after a Storm ends the whole collection on a fitting optimistic note. Bright vocal combined with vivid lyric imagery create a powerful track trying to encourage us that whatever happens, nothiing is too bad and there will always be better days.