Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Kevin Morby scales new heights of inspiration on the exceptional This Is A Photograph

"This Is A Photograph"

Release date: 13 May 2022
Kevin Morby This Is A Photograph compressed
10 May 2022, 20:08 Written by Janne Oinonen
There is no shortage of singer-songwriters drawing from the great American songwriting tradition.

All too often, however, the ensuing efforts highlight the distance between the effortless, natural-born inspiration of the most hallowed names in the tower of song and the somewhat studied facsimiles of their contemporary disciples. Kevin Morby’s past solo output has occasionally fit this bill: quality, yes, but not quite essential, interesting without delivering a K.O. standard punch to where it hurts. This Is A Photograph changes all that.

Inspired by flicking through childhood photos after a family health scare, the loosely themed songs (all of them top quality: this is one of those rare records that starts off strong and keeps getting better, more deep and resonant, with each track) set off from Morby’s personal and family history to explore the unstoppable yet sneaky disappearance of time (‘’the living took forever but the dying was quick’’, Morby quips on the aptly titled countrified beauty “Bittersweet, TN”) and the ghosts that haunt Memphis, the musically extra-ripe setting for the album’s recording.

Echoes of past masters ala Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan continue to hover over the proceedings. Fittingly for an album recorded in the home town of the legendary Stax and Sun Studios, there are liberal sprinklings of soul and the directness of early rock ‘n’ roll, too. For an album recorded with a large cast of collaborators, there is a remarkably unified, organic ‘live’ feel to the proceedings: the title track builds up a sweaty momentum, whilst “Rock Bottom” (recorded at Sam Phillips Recording, a studio founded by the late Sun Records boss) sounds barely under control with its gleefully galloping energy.

At the other end of the spectrum, the spooky, sepia-tinged lament “Disappearing” and hypnotic, slow-burn meditation “A Coat of Butterflies” (featuring the harp of Brandee Younger and, in an unexpected cameo, modern jazz maestro Makaya McCraven on drums) are both haunted by the tragic end of Jeff Buckley, who drowned in Mississippi River in Memphis in 1997. Morby swerves from the album’s thematic thread only for “Stop Before I Cry”, a disarmingly direct ode to his partner Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee.

‘’They just don’t make them like that no more’’, Morby declares on the campfire strum-along “Goodbye to Good Times” that closes the record with references soul heroes Tina Turner and Otis Redding. Once This Is A Photograph has grabbed hold of you (and it will), you’re likely to disagree.

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