An exploration of the intersection of spirituality on secular perception
On his fifth solo album Oh My God, folk-rock singer-songwriter Kevin Morby masterfully touches on spiritual matter through secular perception. Released in late April, the 14 track album is akin to that of Bob Dylan’s epic gospel-phase. Morby explores the penetrating effect of religion and spirituality on life. He reflects on both his personal experiences and the pervasiveness of faith itself. From growing up Methodist in Kansas City to working as a touring musician, Oh My God incorporates both the traditional and universal intimacy that underlies all spiritual experience. The album features a purposeful and eclectic instrumental accompaniment. With the likes of harps, organ, women’s gospel choir and hand rhythm, Morby creates a discernible connection between his music and traditional gospel style. However, the intimacy of his sparse arrangement builds a lingering profoundness that characterizes the divine experience.
The first four tracks on the album serve as the greatest source of Morby’s musical exploration with gospel style. His title track plays off of typical hymn style with simple melody over broad harmonious chords. The melody is picked up by Morby in a preacher-esque style chant “Oh my Lord come carry me home.” The musical simplicity and familiar lyrics create a comfort that enwraps the listener. In a stark changeover, the celestial skies seem to open and there is an outro of female gospel chorus and heavenly saxophone. The effect replicates a transcendental opening and prepares the listener for Morby’s honest emotional expression. He uses a similar style in his song “OMG Rock n Roll,” which acts as the final transition into his more personally expressive work. Again, Morby sets traditional hymn lyrics to a familiar sounding accompaniment; however, this time it is more reminiscent of a retro upbeat 60s Beatles style. The outro comes after Morby rapidly breathes a symbolic last breath, and seemingly dives into the choir’s dreamy, dizzying answer to his prayers to carry him home.
Following this four-track introduction, Morby dives more into a lyrical reflection of his own perception of divinity, and its relationship with humanity. “Seven Devils” explores contemplation above immediate definite answer. “Why did you come into my life?/ what was I supposed to learn from this?” Morby explores the presence of these questions from a childhood perception in “Piss River,” and the lens of adulthood in “Savannah” and “I Want to Be Clean.” The relationship between humanity and divinity is dubious and uncertain at times, and philosophical questions of destiny appear in some way throughout all steps of life. However, there is still a universal human desire for fulfillment through some sort of spiritual experience which Morby explores in “O Behold.” The final song poses questions about what is beyond the tribulations of life. The entire album serves to question and reflect on the meaning of spirituality and life. The sense of musical Déjà Vu runs throughout the album as a whole and creates an intuitive sense of comfort and fulfillment. However, the lyricism and arrangement of each track manifest a different question of human existentialism and spirituality.