Kevin Morby : Sundowner

Virginia Croft
Kevin Morby Sundowner review

A strong sense of relief can be found in the discovery of adding words and melody to an otherwise isolating, challenging emotion. For Kevin Morby, that comes in the form of finding meaning and reassurance to the specific sadness that can only be felt as the sun sets. In his press release for his new album, Sundowner, Morby explained, “During that summer my isolation was given a subtle lift when Katie Crutchfield, who I had toured with the year previous, began visiting… We shared many things, including a mutual melancholy that seemed to appear every night around sunset. We began to refer to ourselves as ‘sundowners.’”

Morby, a native of Kansas City, returned to his hometown coinciding with the release of Sundowner, which likely can account for a tangible sense of familiarity that’s felt throughout the album. “Jamie,” for instance, tells the story of a friend that Morby lost ten years ago. This kind of reflection has a tendency to occur while in the place of one’s upbringing, where they had their most formative experiences. This album finds Morby tackling his shared grief with the world first hand, paying his respects to lost heroes on “Campfire.” First, he remembers the late Jessi Zazu of Nashville’s Those Darlins, singing, “Thought that I saw Jessi, then I got to feeling proud / To ever have known someone so pretty and so sweet / Who every-time she sang a song it’d sweep me off my feet.” Two verses later he pays tribute to Richard Swift and Anthony Bourdain: “Hey who are you? Did you hear the news? Anthony’s dead, and Poor Richard too.

“Wander” finds Morby at his harshest on the record, veering into a Bob Dylan-esque vocal tone, and a brash moment of instrumentals that bring The Pixies’ Doolittle to mind. After the rough moment of abrasive rock, Morby revives his subdued side on “Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun.” A charming, relaxed lullaby, the track takes a moment to relish in the moment in which we feel love, and are loved. It’s a strong example of Morby’s poetic lyricism, coming to life as he sings, “God-bless and pray for American daughters and sons / Try as they might to take flight with clipped wings but some won’t.” The text of Sundowner reads like poems, adding imagery to the simpler moments of our days, and bringing new life to old thoughts.

Even when he is not writing a song, Morby writes to his listeners with an undeniable eloquence. In his press release, Morby fills in more meaning to the album’s title, explaining that Sundowner is “a depiction of the nervous feeling that comes with the sky’s proud announcement that another day will be soon coming to a close as the pink light recedes and the street lamps and house lights suddenly click on.” It is here, within these moments, that we can latch onto his words, have a moment of clarity, and feel transported to the exact sky he was watching.


Label: Dead Oceans

Year: 2020


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