Oh My God
A concept album about religion. Five words sure to make even the most staunch supporters of an artist feel uneasy. In the hands of a lesser songsmith, it would certainly be cause for alarm, but Kevin Morby is fast becoming one of the most articulate, nimble and productive craftsmen of his generation.
Rather than a celebration of religion, this fifth solo album is an examination of spirituality and its role in the sorry mess we find ourselves in; it’s titular expression, Morby’s only way of processing global events, stems from 2016 single Beautiful Strangers.
Morby’s albums have always been imbued with a sense of place, and that’s true to a degree here – this 14-song set was crafted in the air, in the halfworld between the earth and ‘heaven’ as Morby toured the globe. But while Singing Saw (2016) and City Music (2017) were lush and multi-layered, Oh My God is more sparse, the Kansas native’s voice centre stage, supported by Cochemea Gastelum’s decorative saxophone, Mary Lattimore’s harp and on the excellent No Halo a volley of handclaps.
OMG Rock N Roll rattles along in ramshackle Marc Bolan fashion before melting into a choral outro, and the once 15-minute Hail Mary is classic Morby – a Dylan-esque narrative told with expert lightness of touch. When the guitar does break loose on the absorbing piano-led Seven Devils, it’s to glorious effect as Meg Baird unleashes a furious assault, while Congratulations celebrates the simple beauty of life before offering up an outrageous Brian May-like solo.
A bold, even indulgent, move from Kevin Morby, then, but one he’s earned the right to make. My God, he’s a good songwriter.