By Kenny McMurtrie
November 21, 2013
Up until now Kevin Morby has been best known as the bass player in Woods and singer/guitarist in The Babies. With Harlem River’s release he looks set to receive deserved praise as a solo artist as well.
With a title like that it’s a pretty safe bet that there’s some sort of love- letter-to-New York-thing going on here and that turns out very much to be the case; Morby’s parting gift to his adoptive home of five years upon relocating to Los Angeles. Then you have the album’s cover itself, vaguely bringing to mind works by Bob Dylan and other solo artists from the Sixties onwards, particularly with the typeface used. Dylan comparisons are of course all the rage at the moment with Jake Bugg and John Lennon McLaughlin (and probably a ton more) often being mentioned in the same breath as the lingerie advertising chap with the sardonic grin. Thankfully Morby is very much his own man on this album, with only ‘Wild Side (Oh The Places You’ll Go)’ seeming to offer up much Eau de Zimmerman.
Whilst only containing eight tracks the album still lasts for the best part of an hour and exudes a great emotional depth, whether on the stripped-back beauty (think Springsteen around the time of Nebraska) of ’If You Leave And If You Marry’ or on the fuller sounding, organ drenched ‘Miles, Miles, Miles’. Fellow LA resident Cate Le Bon pops up, duetting with Morby on ‘Slow Train’.
A wonderfully chilled out and laidback album with an underlying melancholic sweetness that deserves to be one of the records that sustains you through the darker, shorter nights at this time of year as well as after the late night excesses to come once 2014 starts warming up.