Kevin Morby At Amoeba, Thursday June 15th 2017
Kevin Morby looks like a very unassuming guy. With his curly blonde hair surrounding his young and serious face, he nevertheless plays music that sounds like some timeless classics you have never heard, although none of his songs sound old or even close to oldies. His delivery has something from a Lou Reed and the nasality in his voice will eventually reminds you about Dylan, and all set long I thought about the ‘old soul’ vibe coming from this young man, successively playing guitar then sitting behind a small organ.
He was playing at Amoeba with a full band for the release of his new album ‘City Music’, just a day in advance of its official release on June 16th via Dead Oceans. Starting with the title track of the album, a slowly enwrapping tune with a playful guitar loop shaping into an exotic melody, Morby’s voice came in force when the song blossomed into a country boogie with some distant Television echoes.
While ‘Crybaby’ started like an Angel Olsen song with that monochord Lou Reed tone, the dynamic and gently punkified ‘1234’ was a blast while he namechecked all the Ramones, singing ‘they were all my friends and they all died’. If Morby’s songs brought originality and diversity, I immediately got the surprising impression to have heard the song before, when he sang the Dylan-esque via the Velvet Underground ‘Aboard my Train’.
There were a lot of serenity, loneliness and melancholia in his sprawling songs, which often evoke Southern rural and desolated areas, an idea backed up by the beautiful slide guitar on certain songs, and if a soothing peace often emanated from the music, the songs he picked for his short set were as diverse as you wished they could be. On the album, there’s even a Germs cover (‘Caught in My Eye’) and a Flannery O’ Conor passage read by Kevin’s friend, Meg Baird. As Morby said himself, ‘It is a mix-tape, a fever dream, a love letter dedicated to those cities that I cannot get rid of, to those cities that are all inside of me.’
Ending with the beautiful and slow ‘Downtown’s Lights’, a calming and sad track inspired by a character from Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’, gave even more weight to the set. Morby was all over the place, geographically and musically, although there was a strong connection between the songs and their author, a heartfelt feeling that never left the crowd, and which took everyone on a splendid journey.
Aboard my Train
Come to Me Now
I Have Been to the Mountain