Kevin Morby – City Music

Album Review by Andrew Gordon | 12 Jun 2017
Album title: City Music
Artist: Kevin Morby
Label: Dead Oceans
Release date: 16 Jun

The last time we heard Kevin Morby, he sounded immortal. On Singing Saw, the ex-Woods bass player and co-director of The Babies sang sweeping epics about fire and rain and facing the devil in his dreams. He’d been to the mountain, sung all the songs and watched as the flowers around him wilted, seeming more of a mythological figure wandered in from the back pages of rock history than a regular guy strumming a guitar.

City Music finds Morby stepping out of that caricature into the bustling avenues of the modern metropolis. There, he reckons with what it is 'to be a normal man, just to go out shaking hands' and confronts the reality that his days are numbered. It’s a journey beset by isolation and a kind of spiritual fatigue but just as prevalent are moments of awe and jubilation on an album that stitches together a panoramic view of the urban experience.

On Dry Your Eyes, we hear him crawl the night in search of companionship to the slow shuffle of brushes on a snare drum. He and Megan Duffy’s guitars stagger up against one another, sighing with a big roomy tone you could imagine spilling out a dive bar in some gloomy back alley of nowhere. The title track, meanwhile, is an upbeat jam that ebbs and flows with the energy of rush hour traffic. 'Oh that city music, oh that city sound!' goes the refrain, an exclamation that seems both overwhelmed and elated by the possibilities of so many lives happening in the same place.

Morby’s tools are the same as ever, but more refined. That once derivative Dylan-esque drawl is now unmistakably his own and on Tin Can we hear him perfect the art of saying lots with as little as possible. 'Sun came up then it went down again,' he sings, and you marvel as an entire day passes in eight words, a drum roll spinning the sky like a pinwheel.

Come To Me Now, recorded on a 19th century pump organ, could be the most yearning sound he's put to tape while Aboard My Train pays tribute to the relationships that made him, and when he lets loose a solo with a euphoric yelp, you’ll want to run and hug everyone who was ever there for you. More candid but just as magical, City Music is another magnificent record from Morby.

Listen to: Tin Can, City Music, Come To Me Now