Are you ready for some rootsy acoustic folk, Americana, and any genre where the song is king? Where the plain-speaking singer/songwriter and his band create something organic, immune to overproduction, and without a single artificial ounce of autotune? Then allow me to introduce The Kenn Morr Band; specifically, their latest album (of 12), Still Shining. Featuring 11 solid, folk-ringing tracks, Still Shining is a pure, subtle offering of unrefined refinement. So, what makes this album so darn authentic and more than slightly magical? Let’s hit the highlights.
Wait. Who does what?
Guitarist and lead singer Kenn Morr started playing/performing at age nineteen, influenced by acoustic legends like Gordon Lightfoot, Simon and Garfunkel, and Graham Nash. After a college baseball scholarship didn’t manifest, Kenn embraced a subject that truly reflected his talents – Communications. After leaving his home in Long Island and arriving in Connecticut, Kenn once again pursued his musical aspirations, and found the right folks to fill out the band of his dreams:
Tom Hagymasi – Violin, bouzouki, accordion, mandolin, mandola, vocals
Pat Ryan – Bass guitar, vocals
Tido Holtkamp – Drums, vocals
Now, about those highlights…
The album opens with “Cuttin’ Through,” a mid-tempo song about perhaps the final straw – something that causes a burden to ultimately, and finally, collapse. What I especially like is the ending – it’s a closely bundled cacophony of muttered lyrics that continue repeating until the song softly fades.
Kenn Morr’s voice has a lived-in quality; there’s a rough, rocky bass just underneath that whispery delivery. And it’s not the result of screaming, or too many cigarettes and far too much hard liquor – it’s something granted texture naturally by life, and the passing of time.
Track #3, the eponymous track, features an accordion foundation over almost wood-slapped percussion and layers of strumming acoustic guitar. This particular track deals with aging, and the seemingly abrupt loss of those who arrived some time before us:
“Everyone’s gone man, it happened so quick
Like a vanishing act in some old magic trick
These days can be even darker than night
Most of the wise ones already took flight.”
Track #5, “Angel ‘Round the Bend,” opens with what sounds like a clean electric guitar accompanying the usual acoustic layers. And there’s a great melodic mandolin line leading us right to the first verse. Thankfully, after the chorus, the mandolin returns with that great riff, joined by paralleling accordion, and guiding us to the second verse. We’re then treated to a nice break with violin, and a final verse with fading chorus. Good stuff, and my favorite track on the album.
“Flying High” adds what sounds like piano, which really fills the audible space on track #7. And when the chorus hits, it’s a joining of several voices and some interesting chord changes. This one’s a sleeper – at first, it was simply “nice,” but I discerned more of its spirit after repeated listenings.
“Something In the Air” begins with brighter guitar chords that make, I think, one of the album’s more powerful statements. And thankfully, it remains for most of the verses, and punctuates the end of most choruses.
The album closes with “Once or Twice,” a return to the folksy/pseudo-bluegrass/picking-instruments-on-the-cabin-porch sound permeating most of the album. And this one speaks about persistence. About the rocky road one travels, and about seeing – with a little experience-gleaned perspective – the futility, and perhaps humor, in a nonstop pattern of aspiring and burning. But the important moments occur while reaching somewhere deep, and rejoining the bumpy journey regardless of another potential collapse.
But is it good?
Do you like music that comes from people? People playing subtly amped instruments, and singing about the exploits – silly, sad, humble, impetuous or otherwise – of other people? And do you like this music to sound like music actually made by people, and not stacks of processors and electronic, unsubtle note bending? If you like music that comes from man, and from his life, land, and glorious, uproarious, and dependably fallible pursuits, you’ll love Still Shining from the Kenn Morr Band.
BELOW: Read our interview with Kenn Morr of the The Kenn Morr Band and check them out on Instagram and Facebook. Please support The Kenn Morr Band by visiting their website and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing their music. And, as always, thank you for supporting real music.
Check out our interview with KENN MORR:
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Contact: Kenn Morr