Kevin Morby, Jaye Bartell | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby


When: Wed., June 15, 8 p.m. 2016
Price: sold out
On his recently released third solo album, Singing Saw (Dead Oceans), the onetime Woods bassist Kevin Morby has truly come into his own, eclipsing the accomplishments of his old band. While his vocal limitations remain—he cleaves to a kind of post-Dylan speak-sing style rather than tripping things up with faulty pitch—his arrangements are blossoming, bringing masterfully applied splashes of color to lean grooves. On the title track Morby evokes the spooky vibe of his neighborhood in the evenings: coyotes howl and imagined singing saws fell trees, while the instrumentation, built around a single chiming chord, is appropriately hypnotic. But he can get angry too. The remarkable “I Have Been to the Mountain” is a response to the endless police violence against blacks in recent years, as exemplified in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. The track’s thrumming groove is powerfully ornamented by a clarion trumpet line and a chorus of wordless female vocals, as if to lend some heavenly righteousness to the agitated plaints. The back half of the album ruminates on relationships and how they change us, whether it’s the way we drift away even from people who’ve been constants in our lives, or the way meeting someone new can be transformative. Morby keeps his lyrics bare and elliptical, but there’s no missing the tenderness in his pinched delivery, expertly complemented by subtle instrumental flourishes.
— Peter Margasak
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