Kevin Morby might just be one of the hardest working musicians in the biz. When he’s not plucking bass for the folk revivalist band Woods, he’s playing guitar and singing with Cassie Ramone (from Vivian Girls) in their outstanding rock band The Babies. Now Kevin has released his very first solo debut “Harlem River”, out now on Woodsist Records. He hails from Kansas City, but has recently made his home in Los Angeles. This record, he says, is a “homage to New York City,” his home for the past five years.
“Harlem River” plays like the story of a wary traveler. It’s moody and dark at times, but it evokes the feelings a person feels after leaving a place of comfort that they may or may not have been ready to leave just yet. I’ve read that Kevin says the songs in this album are stories about other people. But, after a few listens, it’s clear the album is interwoven with inward thoughts and self reflection. New York City is the canvas upon which he paints these stories of heartbreak and tragedy.
On the song “If You Leave and If You Marry,” Kevin flexes his guitar chops and tells us about someone leaving him and getting married. He’s obviously trying to cope with this situation as he pleads “Please, oh please, remember me, as one you loved.” It’s an honest folk song about heartbreak and a person needing closure.
“Slow Train” takes us on a journey of self reflection about being lost and knowing you are supposed to be going somewhere but you cannot figure out where. The track features the voice of Cate LeBon on harmony. Cate has a solo part at the end of the song that reminds you of some of the artist Nico’s vocal stylings from her classic album “Chelsea Girl.”
The album closes with, far and away, the most powerful song on the album, “The Dead They Don’t Come Back.” The slow drawl of the steel guitar and acoustic kguitar percussion gives this song the feel of a folk song with a classic country undertone. It’s a song about a friend that passed away who Kevin still carries heavily in his thoughts. In this song he explains he’s figured out that every person will meet their unfortunate demise and realizes that his own life will one day end. One of the strongest lines from the song goes, “And from time to time, I think about my grave. When I’m gonna have one. What’s it gonna say? It feels good to rest, it’s been a long long day.” Kevin carries a heavy burden of loss but you can tell he understands what it means to lose someone and the harsh reality of realizing that they aren’t coming back, but how important it is to keep that person in your thoughts and prayers forever.
Despite only coming out in November, “Harlem River” might be one of those dark horse albums in everyone’s “Best of 2013” posts. You can pick up this album at any of your local retailers or elsewhere on the Internet because it is out now. Good news for the residents of Birmingham, Kevin Morby is touring this winter and will make a stop in our city with Cate LeBon at Bottletree on January 10. Be sure to come out and see Kevin and his band flesh out this wonderful album on stage.