Kevin Morby knows isolation and he is probably one of the best at using it as a tool to create thought provoking and engaging music. Much like some of his earlier work, his new 10 song album, Sundowner, is a product of secluding himself in his own studio (in this case his shed) and putting these more simplified tunes to tape. Like for all of us, COVID created plenty of space and time to “do” things at home. For Morby, it was pulling these tracks back out and shaping them to what we now hear as Sundowner.
Coming off his biggest sound to date in last year’s Oh My God, Sundowner pulls things back and at times reminds me of his first couple records from the Woodsist days. For fans, more Morby is always a good thing and most tracks here have the same “sink in your head” quality that his previous work has had. There are a good number of songs on Sundowner that find Morby at the top of his game like “Valley,” “Campfire” and “Wander,” which for sure would all fit in nicely on what I think is still his best record in 2016’s Singing Saw. “Campfire” has this spectacular middle where Morby stops singing and the music stops. All you can hear then is the fire crackle before Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) steps in for a line. Then just like that – Morby picks back up the song. “Wander” is also great as it is the most upbeat track on the record that has some guitar feedback in the middle as Morby’s delivery gets more intense and then the song finishes under two minutes.
The last four tracks of this record is where Sundowner starts to become somewhat repetitive in tone and tempo. The over seven minute “A Night At The Little Los Angeles” strolls a bit long while the inclusion of the over three minute instrumental “Velvet Highway” does not help energize the end of this album. “Provisions” then closes the record with its slow tempo which just lets Sundowner drift away.
Individually, there are not bad songs on Sundowner as they all possess that Morby charisma but sequencing and the flow of the record feel somewhat disjointed. That doesn’t mean the album is not enjoyable because the quality here is still at a high level and there are plenty of songs to add to a playlist. I think Kevin Morby is one of the most talented singer/songwriters today and nothing on Sundowner makes me believe otherwise. I continue to look forward to output as I think Morby has plenty left in the tank!
Key Tracks: “Valley” / “Campfire” / “Wander”
Artists With Similar Fire: Ryley Walker / Leonard Cohen / Richard Swift
– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde