MAREN MORRIS, Omeara – Evening Standard, 27 Nov 2018

It’s inevitable that a musician who has made their pop breakthrough since their last London gig will come back through town for another show, but it isn’t usually much smaller. Texas-born singer-songwriter Maren Morris is a big noise in the country world, winning a Grammy for her song My Church, though we know her as the voice of Zedd’s dance-pop hit The Middle, which spent a month in the UK top 10 in the spring.

Amazingly, the story goes that she was the 11th choice to sing it, with big names including Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato and Carly Rae Jepsen also having a go. Winning that race has sent her up a division, though the scale of this acoustic club set might have suggested otherwise. However, from her between-song chat it sounded like her performance was an elaborate ruse to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour.

She was backed by an acoustic guitarist, an upright bass player and, briefly, her new husband Ryan Hurd on the soothing ballad Last Turn Home, which they wrote together for Tim McGraw. The simple set-up gave greater prominence to her powerful voice, sweet and acrobatic with a slight rasp when pushed.

Her compositions demonstrated country’s potent mix of melody and wordplay. The chorus of Second Wind was a firm friend as soon as it arrived a second time. Dear Hate was an emotional song released in response to the mass shooting at the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest music festival, at which Morris had performed the day before, and saw her singing, “I hate to tell you love’s gonna conquer all.”

She played a strong track from her imminent second album and let slip news of a worthier comeback gig: the Albert Hall is booked. She’ll be doing some conquering of her own next year.