Kevin Morby follows up last year's splendid Singing Saw with the equally splendid City Music. An artist with a very strong sense of place, he shifts his focus from the rural to the urban, (most obviously New York, the city of all cities), and it feels like choosing to put on your New York Punk records after playing Nashville Skyline.
It's a deft, assured record. Morby understands the rhythms of the city, just as he appreciates the artistic predecessors who've charted this territory before. On second track Cry Baby the glacial riff that powers I Wanna Be Your Dog gets disinterred, then 1234, (less than two minutes long and quite perfect for it), pays tribute to The Ramones and Jim Carroll for their lives of urban purity in the most apt and succinct terms imaginable, 'Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, they were all my friends. And they died...'
After these two early peaks it would seem that City Music will do well to maintain it's high water mark but Morby is an artist not only with a clear and nuanced understanding of the sources he draws on but enough sheer vision, talent and guts to put his own work up for worthy comparison with the greats. Each successive track remarkably achieves new plateaus. There's soul, blues, folk, rock and punk music here for your delectation and Morby does justice to each. There's also a keen feel for the literary heritage of urban existence in all its contradictory, trapped abandon. A great record, of the old school, for 2017!