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Kevin Morby

SINGLE RELEASE: Kevin Morby – ‘No Halo’

WORDS BY KANE MARTIN

On the 27th February Kevin Morby announced his upcoming double album Oh My God, joint with the news was the release of his new single No Halo. Morby has made a career from re-imagining America’s classic rock heritage, a heritage which as time passes on has started to swallow NYC innovators such as The Velvet Underground, Ramones and The Jim Carroll Band in its revisionist history.

No Halo is no exception from this rule with Morby’s well documented Dylan-esque croon and a Rhodes organ chord progression creeping through the track; the classic Morby formula is at play but with repeated listens one can’t help but feel that something else is at play too.

 

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No Halo 📸 by Barrett Emke, shot in studio, West Bottoms, Kansas City. Thanks B!

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The track feels like something of an ode to the innate rhythms of rock n roll and the digestion of these rhythms as a child. Whether it’s the ‘1,2,3,4!’ before a Ramones track kicks in, or learning a new nursery rhyme with a ‘1,2,3,4’ in the playground when the sun’s out and slightly burning your face fat. There’s something both weirdly human and meditative about our unsaid appreciation of these patterns. They guide us through life, song and the passing of time without us knowing too much why or our need for them.

Morby’s lyrics don’t shine too much of a light on these eternal questions either but he evokes images of nostalgia “When I was a boy / No rooftop on my joy” with the elemental “no how, no one, nothing was not made of fire” and the spiritual “And hey, hey, hey / No, no, no halo, halo, halo, halo”. Demonstrating to us that with a tiny simple repetition we’re merely a few syllables away talking about the fundamentals of what’s important about life as we know it. This is all reinforced by the Astral Weeks flutes, Coney Island Baby Sax and The Steve Reich-esque clapping reinforcing this hypnotic reflection on this mortal coil. Heavy fucking shit man. The best music always is.


With No Halo it really feels like we have the first signs of an artist reaching a cosmic maturity and looking back at the building of himself as an artist. One can’t help but feel like this isn’t Mr. Morby’s first tackling with this subject with track 3 on 2017’s City Music’s ‘1,2,3,4’ except whilst previously this toe-dipping into this subject matter felt like something of parody or an ironic wink as the simplicity of rock n’ roll; this time round it feels as though Kevin something profoundly spiritual in the simplicity of it. Thusly it feels like the songwriting’s as honest, bare and nude as Kevin Morby is on the front cover and makes me tremendously excited for his upcoming double album.

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LIVE: Kevin Morby @ Gorilla – 20.08.18

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER

At the back-end of 2017, indie folk act Kevin Morby and his band sadly cut short their European tour and didn’t make it to our shores. Now he returns with a clean bill of health and his personified status of an age-old literary symbol that captures an audience. You’d be forgiven for thinking that live, the band would cut a sombre shape – particularly as this was the day after they’d just played Brecon Beacons’ Green Man Festival. However, the evening was anything but sensational with a hive of activity that swallowed Gorilla‘s dancefloor whole.

#shannonlay #leeds #brudenellsocialclub

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Ahead of Kevin came Shannon Lay, who also just played Green Man Festival. Signed to Morby’s label ‘Mare Records’, she brought unassuming lyrics and pearls of unconventional folk wisdom to the table for an easygoing pre-headliner act. Before then still was the turn of Kevin’s guitarist Meg Duffy’s live act Hand Habits. Duffy set the scene for the evening with eloquently portrayed, bittersweet lyrics echoed by her band members that she calls her ‘continuous amoeba’.

Taking to the stage every inch the archetypal literary wanderer – dressed in a suit and bolo tie complete with ‘CRY BABY’ (the second track from his recent album) painted across the back of his jacket, Morby knows his strengths and where he stands.

His fourth studio album ‘City Life’ provides the bulk of the set of the night’s entertainment and is impeccable throughout but Morby gives earlier material a look-in too, with stand out tracks including ‘Parade’, ‘Beautiful Strangers’ and ‘Harlem River’. What took us by surprise though and boosted the tone of the night ever more was the entrance of fellow American singer/songwiter Waxahatchee. The artist joined Morby for the female vocals on her own track ‘The Dark Don’t Hide It’ and for a cover of the legendary ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ originally by Bob Dylan. Comparisons between Dylan and Morby are indisputable, both bring a natural, gentleman-like ease to playing and have the method fine tuned to a tee.

Overall, the gig felt like a surprise parcel that contained all manor of delectable delights when opened, a glad welcome that more than made do for the cancellation of his last slot. It was an indisputable (if unnecessary) indicator of the emphatic step forward Morby has taken this year. He’s emerged as a distinctive voice greater than the sum of his influences. He now plays with the hunger and confidence of a man out to make an impression, worth every bit of his self-mythologised persona.

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