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Kevin Morby At Space 15Twenty For Record Store Day

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Kevin Morby

 

On Record Store Day, Kevin Morby and his band played across the street from Amoeba Records, in the cozy stage of Space 15Twenty. He released his third album ‘Singing Saw’ via Dead Oceans on this same day, which was probably a very good idea since people are already in the buying mood that day.

I saw him two years ago, opening for Angel Olsen, and I hadn’t forgotten his strong voice, which is certainly an excellent sign, as we often tend to neglect openers… But Kevin Morby has his own voice and you will very probably see him soon headlining one of these shows at the El Rey or the Fonda. At 28, he has already had a long music career, as the former bassist of Woods and co-founder of The Babies (with his friend Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls), and now getting a well-deserved recognition as a solo artist. At the first song, you can easily understand why Kevin Morby had to form his own band, simply named after himself. His work is grand, inspired and captivating but also very personal, while there is undoubtedly something in his music evoking some of the greatest songwriters. When Morby adopts this drawl, it is difficult not to think about Dylan as he shares with him a nasal dragging-on-the-vowels, half-sung-half-spoken delivery. Nevertheless, there isn’t any desire to imitate anyone, Kevin builds his own universe with a commanding voice reigning over apparently calm soundscapes, where a tempest is always dormant and a danger always lurking. His songs then explode into a glorious and tumultuous violence (‘Dorothy’) or turn into a Cohen-meets-Dylan-country-folk dream (‘Water’).

Live, Kevin Morby plays with a confidence, in plain control of his world, with back and forth steps, his unruly hair in the face and a rare smile. His eyes look far away, he seems to be gone into the open spaces of his songs populated by mountains, black flowers, trains and rivers. There’s something a bit ‘ancient’, very bucolic, even cinematic and country-like in the imagery of this Kansas-City native, while his sonic textures are amplified by many luxurious details. The art cover of the album, showing Morby alone, lost in wilderness with a fire burning not too far away, while LA city lights can be barely seen in the distance, seems to follow this same symbolism.

If the sound of his new album seems to be driven by a strong ambition, his previous albums also contains little gems like ‘All of My Life’, a sweet and catchy earworm off his 2014 album ‘Still Life’, that he also played during his set. In any case, all Morby’s songs have this same strong emotional effect which could even be more real when you listen to the recorded tracks, on which sultry gospel backing vocals, keys, horn and string arrangements were added to the songs.

People in the crowd were charmed and captivated by his music, and seeing how many of them ran to the merchandize table when it was over, I have no doubt this high-school-drop-out with no back-up plan (as I have read in an interview) made the right decision when he followed his dream and went to the musical mountain.

More pictures of the show here:

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