Kevin Morby – Singing Saw (Dead Oceans, April 15, 2016)

kevin-morbyThe singing saw creates a sound that is so indescribably eerily and ethereally beautiful, and if used right can send little shivers of nostalgia down your spine and make you ache for years you never even lived. Incidentally, that’s more or less exactly how we feel about Kevin Morby’s rich, timeless, vaguely psych-y Americana folk rock, especially on this third full-length, Singing Saw. Seeing as how much we loved Morby’s past work in psych-folk combo Woods and garage-pop group The Babies (along with Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls), it was no surprise when we fell for his comfortably warm troubadour solo work. In the tradition of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, Morby’s tone generally runs a little world-weary, and while Singing Saw retains some of the wistfulness of his previous albums, it also feels optimistic and celebratory. This joyous openness is reflected in the slightly up-scaled arrangements, with prominently featured strings (which delicately walk a line between symphonic grandeur and grounded folk fiddle), choral backing vocals, and bright trumpet solos. As always, Justin Sullivan’s drumming is the backbone of this album: understated, but lending Morby’s gorgeously ambling guitar melodies all the steady directionality of an ironclad train. While all of the tracks on this album are heart-wrenchingly stunning, “Drunk And On A Star” is a particularly enchanting little gem; perfectly layered and dripping with just the right amount of reverb, it feels (like much of this album) as though it’s sweetly echoing out into a summer night’s sky.

Dudley Smith


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