Kevin Morby: This Is A Photograph [Album Review]

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Kevin Morby
This Is A Photograph
Dead Oceans [2022]

The Fire Note headphone approved

This Is A Photograph is singer/songwriter Kevin Morby’s 7th album which once again is a record that captures his look at life with intelligent lyrics, complex arrangements and his calm as can be vocals. Since his gospel-folk delivery on the fantastic Singing Saw (2016), Morby has tweaked his style with each record that has followed but has not quite still reached that Headphone Approved effort. All solid records for sure with memorable singles but I think what you will hear on This Is A Photograph are all the building blocks from previous experiences. Kevin Morby’s focus is viscerally intense and his 10 compositions strategically breeze by with calculation and sophistication.

After a quick into, the powerful title tracks sets the tone for this album. The first line you hear is “This is a photograph, a window to the past.” Morby so skillfully captures how a picture in time means so many things when you reflect back. Youth, confidence and dreams can all be ready to break out versus the present state of mortality may tell a different story. When Morby sings “Got a glimmer in her eyes seems to say: this is what I’ll miss about being alive and this is what i’ll miss after I die.” you hear the fear of age as the track and his vocals increase in tempo and intensity. “A Random Act Of Kindness” is next, as it is another song that follows a slow tempo build with a spectacular finish that includes a large string arrangement. At this point, it feels that This Is A Photograph will take off but the folkish “Bittersweet, TN” pulls the listener closer and is a fantastic pacing shift. This song is a duet with Nashville’s Erin Rae and features fiddle, banjo and strings as its heartbreaking lyrics about a love lost will hit hard as you hang onto every word.

There are a multitude of highlights on this album. “A Coat Of Butterflies” reflects on the death of Jeff Buckley, as Morby visited Memphis in the making of this album. When he sings “And hey man have you heard Buckley singing Hallelujah? He did what Leonard never could to it, gave it wings then away it was.” it can strike an emotion as the early loss of Jeff Buckley is still very sad today. The upbeat “Rock Bottom” is a jammer complete with a time keeping cowbell while he offers some nice thoughts on love about girlfriend Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) during “Stop Before I Cry.”

Throughout the entire record, Kevin Morby is in complete control of your journey. With spectacular arrangements that take over your speakers at all the right times to a multitude of talented musicians that make every note stand out, This Is A Photograph is an impressive record. Kevin Morby has been a storyteller from the beginning but this look at America life is elaborate, vulnerable and deep, making This Is A Photograph his best release to date in an already accomplished catalog!

“This Is A Photograph” / “Bittersweet, TN” / “Rock Bottom”

The War On Drugs / Bob Dylan / Ryley Walker

Sundowner (2020) / Oh My God (2019) / City Music (2017) / Singing Saw (2016)

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