Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 242 - 05/21/16

Kevin Morby
Singing Saw
Dead Oceans

Former Woods bass player Kevin Morby's come up with his third album (and his first for Dead Oceans), and Singing Saw starts with, yes, right, a singing saw. Where his last album, Still Life with the Rejects from the Land of Misfit Toys (in short, Still Life) was a nice treat and a fine album for sure, Singing Saw lifts to a higher level with Morby scoring his best album so far.

He's (or his music is) not as immediate and catchy as his former bandmates in the Woods, but when you dig into his songs they stand out as little masterpieces. Such as with the epic title track, which brings him (and us) deep into some dark, eerie woods. The opening, slow strolling "Cut Me Down" is a pleasant introduction to the musical world of Morby. The musical journey continues with the magnificent and bass bubbling "I Have Been To The Mountain", holding nifty horns and glorious choir harmonies. Add the title track, and you've already been introduced to a fine troika of songs, presenting some excellent alternative Americana/electric folk rock with cool piano, strings, horns, guitars and steel guitar, neat chorus harmonies, subtle bass playing and drumming and, of course, the singing saw. Singing Saw is (mainly) a soft-spoken, melancholy sweep through the musical mind of Kevin Morby. The musical outcome is a collection of songs leaning on both more straightforward ballads of some different kind of ballad-Americana as well as some rougher, more alternative song writing. Dead Oceans say that the songs on Singing Saw 'were crafted on a left-behind upright piano at Morby's new-found home in the hills of Los Angeles. Listening along you can practically feel the winding side streets of his neighbourhood, see the skyline's sweeping lights, and hear the wind rustle the dried out underbrush of the LA flora.'

Morby absorbs the power of green (and dark) trees as he throws his songs at us. He might be inspired by the elf power of the Ents, the fictitious tree-like creatures called Onodrim from the adventurous world of Tolkien. Not that I am saying Morby's a full-blown hippie. He is just wandering close to nature (trees, flowers, water) with a big city perspective. 'Always' bringing a saw - which can cut down, split and destroy things, as well as build and create something new ('...I'm out wandering the street / Silently carrying a saw...' - "Destroyer"). Or, transferred to some other meaning: building/repairing/creating relations - to persons, or places.

Thought I saw a singing saw
Cutting down a willow
Thought I saw a singing saw
Cut down a song tree
Thought I saw a singing saw
Cutting down a willow
Then I saw the singing saw
Come singing after me
("Singing Saw")

Morby is probably a spirited kind of the nature-loving type. His literate lyrics seems to be multi-layered, in which you can read several themes from earthy closeness and affiliation to the unworldly and the religious. He is probably a man of secrets and mystery, as well as he unveils and rolls out his little song stories. To quote Dead Oceans this is a record of 'duality, one that marks another stage of growth for this young, gifted songwriter with a kind face and a complicated mind.' Along with the mentioned opening three songs "Dorothy" stands out as a personal favourite being indeed catchy and good-mooded, with a cool soft-fuzz-drenched drive and melody making me think of some bands ' of the Elephant 6 roster (Beulah, anyone?). UNCUT magazine praised the album, calling it 'the sound of a man gently losing his mind to music and not caring all that much.' You should also check out the closing two tracks, "Black Flowers" and "Water", just to see/hear Morby as a ballad man, related to, say, the mellow moods of artists such as Richard Hawley, Phosphorescent, Tindersticks, Ed Harcourt and others. Come hug a tree while listening to the sound of the singing saw.

Copyright © 2016 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Kevin Morby articles/reviews: Beautiful Strangers b/w No Place To Fall, Still Life.

© 2016 Luna Kafé