Kevin Morby’s low-key spin on urban Americana has always sounded off-the-cuff. Melding the ramshackle sound of Bob Dylan’s basement tapes, the sunny shimmer of the Laurel Canyon sound, and just a hint of Lou Reed swagger, the Texas-born, Missouri-raised songwriter makes music that seems to exist without a hint of premeditation.
That’s what made 2021’s A Night at the Little Los Angeles so surprising. A collection of demos for 2020’s Sundowner, the album took what was already one of Morby’s most stripped down releases and laid it bare. More than just a bonus feature for hardcore fans, it was an invitation to the moment of inspiration, showing how much care goes into even his most casual-seeming compositions.
Morby’s musical meticulousness shouldn’t have been a surprise given how much he’s accomplished in his 34 years. Inspired by cinematic visions of New York, he dropped out of high school at 17 and made his way from Kansas City to Brooklyn, eventually joining psych-folk group Woods as their bass player for a quartet of albums in the late 2000s. He was honing his own voice in that time, too, partnering with Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone for two releases as The Babies before making his solo debut with 2013’s Harlem River.
Since then, he’s released eight albums in a 10-year span, including 2022’s This Is a Photograph, an album steeped in mortality and contemplation, featuring some of his most defiant songwriting to date.
Biography by Peter Hemminger