In 2015, after almost quitting music following a string of tragic family losses, English singer/songwriter James Morrison returned with a revitalized, pop-polished comeback. Four years later, he stripped that radio-ready sheen and reverted to an unfussy, rootsy sound on his fifth album, You're Stronger Than You Know. Dropped from his label and processing life's ups and downs, Morrison turned those hardships into hope with this set of soulful guitar anthems that are carried by his passionate, Stevie Wonder-indebted vocals. Overall, the bulk of the album is directed at his partner, with Morrison opening his heart on "So Beautiful" and "Feels Like the First Time," a wedding-perfect gem that could rival Ray Lamontagne's "You Are the Best Thing." Elsewhere, his sentiments are aptly summarized on "My Love Goes On," a standout duet with fellow blue-eyed soulster Joss Stone, and the joyous "Brighter Kind of Love." While much of the first half of the album is designed to spark warm fuzzies and butterflies, Morrison doesn't shy away from the messy, uncertain moments of life. Intense highlight "Slowly" rocks with urgency as he pushes his vocals to the desperate brink. "I Still Need You" finds redemption in love, no matter how difficult the journey has been, with Morrison realizing "life's a little better when you've got someone." Through it all -- as he sings on "Ruins" -- "if we both look straight ahead/then we'll make it out alive." Taking the wisdom from lessons learned in his hitherto thirtysomething years on Earth, Morrison pushes positivity and maturity with this simple and utterly relatable collection.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung