Kansas City rocker Kevin Morby has never been shy about romancing American music, and throughout his career, he’s often imagined himself as some of his musical heroes like Lou Reed or Bob Dylan. However, when it came time to make his latest album, This is a Photograph, he delved into his own psyche with a newfound depth. The image cited in the title was of his father and found in a box of old pictures in the basement of his family home in Kansas City hours after his dad suddenly collapsed and had to be hospitalized. While his father survived, the experience shook Morby. When the pandemic descended on the world in the coming months he decided to get away, holing up at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, to begin making a new album.
While he walked around the city, visiting famous musical landmarks including the Stax Studios and the spot along the Mississippi River where Jeff Buckley suffered his tragic death, the substance of the music came from within. The city’s complicated legacy of virulent racism and unbound musical creativity functioned as a lens for his new songs, none more powerful than the title track where despite acknowledging “Now time’s the undefeated,” the singer exposes his raw vulnerability: “This is what I’ll miss about being alive.”
As with its predecessors, the recording shares a genuinely American sensibility in the way it filters the contradictions, the joy, and the beauty of our culture in its many forms through his folk-rock vision. Morby has never been more honest and soulful, confronting truths that had previously proven elusive.