12 Plays of Christmas – Kevin Morby

The scene sways and shifts, my vision staggering across the half-lit room. Behind the bar an endless row of half-full liquor bottles shimmer in the cathode ray haze. The barman, silent and as tall as two men, pours me another shot. I taste the angry burn on the back of my neck and light another cigarette. In the corner a middle-aged couple rive in slow motion, snaking across the tiny wooden space you may as well call the dance floor. The only other person is an old man paring his nails with a penknife, the yellowing scraps piling up on the floor around him. A wurlitzer jukebox plays the music of Kevin Morby.

There is something simultaneously unsettling and soothing about Singing Saw, an album of beautiful, weary vocals and soft, ghostly instrumentation. His music comes from another place, yet speaks of this one.

I Have Been To The Mountain is a gospel-infused roar, built on a piston engine of guitars and keys that touches on the politics of race and poverty. It’s potency is in it’s precipitous control, always on the edge but never quite falling:

Dorothy conjures the ghosts of music and love past. Crunching, Velvet Undergound-like guitars, a driving Sprinsteenish piano are the background to a story of needs that just won’t quit:

And lets go hit the town
And we could fill a room up with smoke
y’know I got the first round
As we tell all those stories told
And I would pretend you were new
Like I was just introduced to you
And all the music in my ears

Black Flowers is a folk idyll with a hand-picked guitar of beautiful simplicity and a ripple of rickety old piano. It’s a dream of a place to call home, hurriedly scratched out on the back of a cigarette packet in the last moments of a drunken night that is then long forgotten. One day you will find it down the back of the sofa and smile.

In the last few years Americana has had something of a renaissance yet Kevin Morby remains on the periphery , scribbling ideas in the fog of a half-smoked cigarette and wondering whether someone will ask him to dance tonight. You can purchase Singing Saw from Dead Ocean Records.

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