Ken Will Morton
All’s Fair in Love & War
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Solo albums don’t get more personal than Athens based singer-songwriter Ken Will Morton’s seventh release. He played every instrument (except drums which are pre-recorded loops he found online), sang, wrote all the tunes and recorded it on a jerry-rigged setup in his mobile home. What he loses in fidelity and the unique synergy that results when a band finds its groove, he more than makes up for with a determined, introspective batch of rockers and ballads that feel lived in and real.
Since Morton acts as his own producer, there’s no one to suggest some of these 20 songs could have been left on the cutting room floor. A handful of tunes meander around looking for choruses that never materialize and others just aren’t up to Morton’s usual standards. That dilutes the strength of what could have been a more impressive, less sprawling set. Still, the hit to miss ratio is impressively high even if listening to all 78 minutes of it in one sitting can get tedious.
Morton’s world weary, grainy voice perfectly reflects the psyche of his blue collar protagonists who seem to be running away from something and towards nothing in particular. Titles such as “Falling from Grace,” “Riding for a Fall,” “Trial By Fire,” “Hitting Ditches” and “Down the Drain” exemplify his tales of those who are down if not quite out, either referencing romantic entanglements gone sour or life in general. Echoes of Paul Westerberg (“Vestiges of You”) and Ryan Bingham inform much of the material that in most instances never quite connects melodically.
There is no question about Morton’s rugged work ethic. He layers and overdubs guitars, harmonica, vocals and more, often multiple times per track. Sometimes it works, occasionally the effect is overly cluttered, especially since he tends to be excessively wordy. More often, the sound is insular which helps some tunes and hinders others.
But, with your own judicious editing, there is much to enjoy here. Morton’s hangdog persona, his firm grasp on Americana and obvious passion push him through some of the rough melodic patches. When he hits his stride as on the gruff country rocking ballad “Blindsided,” it’s clear that with a bigger budget, a full band and a good producer, he’s just a song away from leaving his under-the-radar status behind him.