Korby Lenker/Man in the Maroon/Ranch Volvo
Four out of Five Stars
Korby Lenker is a thoughtful singer/songwriter, which of course is no special distinction itself. Most artists who pride themselves on their craft and conviction could say the same. Yet, given Lenker’s knack for both wit and reflection, his efforts consistently stand out, a considerable accomplishment that he’s managed to maintain over the expanse of six previous albums dating back to the beginning of the millennium.
Happily then, Lenker’s latest, Man in the Maroon, holds to that same standard, a generally breezy set of songs recorded just prior to lockdown, then apparently rerecorded, shuffled, and shared throughout an ongoing editing process. As a result, the new collection clearly benefits from Lenker’s instincts and insight. The delicate designs of the piano ballad “What’s Wrong With Us” offers a frank look at love and the various pitfalls that often occur without warning or reason. The casual pace of “Now I Once Thought That I Was Strong” provides a serene stroll accompanied by repose and revelation, only to build to a more emphatic expression with the decidedly determined “Christmas Rain” and the steady assured build of the album opener “All In My Head.”
In addition, a pair of banjo-based pieces—“Billie Louise” and “Open Country”—add an element of down home deliberation. However, it’s the extended spoken word narrative “Mose and Ella,” an unlikely account of a hike shared between a curious and ultimately quibbling couple, that makes for the most curious entry overall. In truth, it seems somewhat out of place in the midst of a set of songs, but credit Lenker’s skills as a storyteller for overcoming what might otherwise seem something of a distraction. His low-cast “Tri State Lottery” is a more nuanced narrative, an example of Lenker’s subtle wit and pensive perspective. So too, his delicate take on “Moon River” seems an appropriate ending for such a sensitive selection of songs, one that reflects Lenker’s subtlety and skill in ways well worth considering.
Granted, Lenker has yet to attain the wider recognition he decidedly deserves. For now though, Man in the Maroon is well worth scoping out.
Photo by David McClister