I remember telling my wife after I heard Kevin Morby for the first time, “I just found this guy and he’s amazing. He sounds just like Bob Dylan. I think you’ll like him.” The next day, after listening to him, she tells me, “You were right! He does sound like Bob Dylan and he is amazing.” I must admit, my wife has excellent music taste, but regardless, Kevin Morby has this ability to blow you away with his unique and powerful style. Ever since first discovering him he has been a staple in our house and we’ve listened to him over and over, following his progression throughout the years and even seeing him live.
Kevin Morby began his musical career playing bass for the experimental folk band Woods and playing briefly with the band The Babies. He has released seven albums beginning in 2013. His style varies from traditional folk and Americana to classic rock and roll to country and soul. He is a master lyricist and song composer. His songs deal with current social issues like mass shootings, the negative effects of organized religion, sexism, racism, death and climate change.
Kevin Morby has a very unique vocal style reminiscent of Bob Dylan. He has a deep voice and harmonizes with the bass in a beautiful way, at times talking out his lyrics. He has a very poetic style and loves alliteration and word play. His songs repeat certain thematic lines throughout like repeating his album titles, “oh my God” and “this is a photograph”. He loves using metaphors centered around nature. He talks a lot about rivers, usually symbolizing death and mortality and how life flows naturally on its given path. He also likes to sing about storms, trains, the Great Plains, singing, dancing, his family and he loves using the color black to create his dark and depressing mood. He is definitely one of the best and most creative lyricists I have ever heard and this quality alone makes his music a pleasure to listen to.
Kevin Morby likes to experiment with different musical styles and each album has a different tone and sound. His first album, Harlem River from 2013 has a slight psychedelic jazz sound which is probably influenced by his time with the band Woods. I really like this style and Harlem River is a beautifully crafted album with a unique and dynamic sound. His next two albums, Still Life and Singing Saw are of similar styles to Harlem River, but a bit more dark, depressing and folksy.
His fourth album, City Music in 2017 signifies a departure from his other albums in sound and style, bringing a more complex array of instruments and layers and an overall more upbeat sound. He uses horns and saxophones and has a lot more energy than his previous albums. His next album, Oh My God, made in 2019, puts together all of his styles into a perfectly crafted album. Oh My God drew a lot of attention from critics and the mainstream media and put Kevin Morby on the indie map. This album is perfectly sequenced and produced and contains many somber songs with eerie piano and explosive lyrics, that ironically critique organized religion, making this album his best in my opinion.
Following the success and praise of Oh My God, Kevin released the album Sundowner in 2020. This album leans more towards traditional folk and Americana, relying more on acoustic guitars and less on piano and saxophone. Overall it was a decent album but did not blow my socks off. His newest album, This Is a Photograph, on the other hand is a masterpiece. He takes all of his styles and meshes them together, mixing his simple folk sound with layered soulful rock and roll. From start to finish this album sounds great and I am excited for the direction he is headed for any future albums.
Kevin Morby has an amazing and diverse array of albums and is a dynamic performer to see live. I just saw him live on his This is a Photograph tour and I was blown away by his energy and attention to detail. He wore a shimmery silver Elvis jacket and shook his wild curly hair like a folk rock maniac. He knew when to slow down and when to bring the energy. My wife couldn’t help her excitement and screamed with joy over the polite artsy crowd. Overall he was an amazing act to see live and I will always try to see him when he comes to town.
Kevin Morby is an American gem that blends together folk and rock and soul in a unique and powerful way. His lyrics are poignant and meaningful and his vocal delivery is unmatched. I am excited to see what direction he is headed to next and I highly recommend that you take a listen to his work.
Genres: Folk, Americana, Folk Rock, Rock and Roll, Soul
Favorite Songs: Harlem River, Beautiful Strangers, City Music, Tin Can (my wife’s favorite), Destroyer, Oh My God, No Halo, Congratulations, Singing Saw, Bittersweet, TN, This Is a Photograph, Stop Before I Cry
Score: 10/10 The perfect unique folk rock sound
Written by Adam