Kevin Morby – “Sundowner” Review

Story posted October 21, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Paul Martin

Kevin Morby’s music works best when he paints pictures and scenes.

This is evident in his latest release, “Sundowner,” which acts as an ode to Morby’s hometown of Kansas City, where he recently relocated to after stints in New York City and Los Angeles.

While 2019’s “Oh My God” focused on a more blues-sounding approach and 2016’s “Singing Saw” explored louder folk rock, it sounds as though Morby is more than complacent to grab his acoustic guitar and strum on a country porch, crooning about lost lovers and friends long past.

While his previous releases were layered in a plethora of instruments, ranging from strings to horns, Morby’s intentions of reaching a more laid-back sound are very well on display for this release.

Most of the time, Morby opts to only present what he finds important to the listener. This means limiting the noise on the record and reserving most of the attention to the acoustic guitar and the piano that populates many songs off this record.

The album opener “Valley” does a great job introducing the listener to the sound with the repeating of one verse coming as symbolic of the stillness of life in the midwest. The subdued sound Morby explores in the track also warms the listener up to the subtler sound that controls the record.

Some of the best tracks on this record come on the backend. “Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun” is a spacious and sprawling song that captures the laid-back environment of the Midwest.

“A Night At The Little Los Angeles” is another fantastic cut off the record that paints a fractured image of a motel where listeners can hear other occupants through paper thin walls and the floors’ smell of bleach. With the constant climax of the repeating “baby” in the chorus, Morby paints a clear and conspicuous image.

The record isn’t without its detractors, however. “Wander” is a whimsical short cut that features incredibly corny lyrics with the chorus being the biggest culprit of this as Morby sings “I wonder as I wander.”

“Brother, Sister” also feels like a misguided track. The song, which sounds like its instrumentation was pulled straight from a Western soundtrack, has lyrics that also come off a little goofy. Morby croons, “Oh brother, they killed you dead, I know sister, now I live in your head” which sounds just as bad when written as it is when it’s sung.

Despite a few misguided steps, the record is a very enjoyable listen. The twang of the electric guitar on several tracks puts listeners in Morby’s shoes, as he guides them throughout life in his home area. Morby’s subdued voice helps amplify the sound of a more concise and clear sound than what he has explored on previous releases.

“My heart's the guitar, and my mouth the piano,” Morby sings on “Provisions,” the closing track of the album, and there is honestly no better quip that best describes the record. Morby elects to reserve the amount of sounds that the listener hears to create a soft yet controlling sound.

The album is bright, not overbearing and reminds one of being in the countryside, watching the sun bring an end to a long day, even if the listener has never been to the Midwest before.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Song: “A Night At The Little Los Angeles”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “Wander”

 

Paul Martin is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email at phm5095@psu.edu.

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