This Thursday, Kevin Morby performed Oh My God in its entirety for the last virtual show of his live streamed series taking place every Thursday over the last month. Each solo show featured an album from his discography leading up to the premier of his new album, Sundowner, which debuts October 16th.
“I wrote this record on airplanes and in hotel rooms and there’s no real one place on a map I can pinpoint to the writing of this album, unlike City Music or Singing Saw or any of my other albums. This was a big record for me. It changed a lot for me. All my records changed something for me,” said Morby, introducing Oh My God. “I put this record together over, like, a two-year period… I think this record was a curveball to a lot of people. It was kind of a curveball for us.”
Morby, performing from his living room, was surrounded by round cotton poofs to emulate clouds, and votive candles with the faces of “two of the best writers of all time,” Leonard Cohen and James Baldwin, painted on them like saints. He sported a white jumpsuit with chess pieces inside hands printed on it. The back read “OMG RNR” while the leg spelled out “O BEHOLD.” Cloaked in blue light surrounded by books and wall art, the scene was like seeing the influences that make up the innards of Morby’s mind.
“The subject matter and the common thread throughout this record kind of comes from my song ‘Beautiful Strangers,’ which had come out a few years before this album. It was just sort of following this religious imagery,” explained Morby. “This idea of kind of being no where all the time and being up in the clouds. I find all religions very beautiful, and I find religious imagery and art really beautiful.”
The first song, that shares the title of the album, “Oh My God,” is a track that is carried by its graceful piano and organ chords produced by his Melotron. For a lot of people, the organ sound itself carries a lot of religious affiliation because it’s mostly heard in churches. Morby pushed pedals and danced along keys with ease.
Shifting into the second track, “No Halo,” which is a pluckier tune played on acoustic guitar, the simple lyrics and notes make for a catchy song to be remembered. “I’d written the song just in a room, with an acoustic guitar, and what came out of that is what you hear on the record,” said Morby, setting his guitar down to return to keys. The album has proved to be more openly spiritual than its predecessors, and feels like an open message from Morby to God.
Before introducing “Hail Mary,” Morby reflected on his incredible experience performing to a crowd of 300 people in Madrid, Spain before COVID-19 took away the physical aspect of live shows. Everyone clapped, sang and were moved by the music, much like a congregation singing their praise.
If he could only “take one of the songs on this record to a desert island,” Morby says it would be “Piss River.” As one of his favorites, he explained that he’s proud of the song and will play it for a long time in the future when live shows make their comeback. In an avant-garde version, he fingerpicked and strummed two chords repetitively and sang. The raw form of this song made it feel a lot more personal; the sparseness of instrumentals during this set did not draw away from the songs’ authenticity, but rather shined a spotlight on them.
“Congratulations” is one of two tracks he has written inspired by dreams.“Someone in my dream was yelling congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! At me over and over and then I woke up,” revealed Morby. He then picked up a guitar and started writing to form the song, which is more of an upbeat chant with guitar chords. Changing constantly from a more somber, ethereal sound to an outpouring of gratitude and thanks, the set felt very personal and honest to the rises and falls of everyday life, and one’s walk with their beliefs. “Sing a Glad Song,” a wholesome uplifting tune, encourages listeners to “Just like dirt/ Take a glad, glad, glad, glad song/ And put it right where it hurts,” because music heals.
In an entertaining ending to say the least, Morby ran outside. After getting around a scary opossum blocking the front door, he retrieved his girlfriend, Katie Crutchfield, from the barn. They sang the last song together. “My sentiment was I was going through my own form of heartbreak at the time,” said Morby, “and also just the world at the time. I wanted to make a song that encompassed the world’s heartbreak. It wasn’t internal, it wasn’t about me, it was about the world.” “O Behold” does just that. The impromptu duet between Morby and Crutchfield was incredible; her light harmonies and background vocals added a beautiful feminine element to the song.
A virtual tip jar was passed around during the show for the Greenline Initiative, a social enterprise that renovates blighted homes in the urban core.“Their mission is to increase generational wealth through property ownership and investment. This is very important right now and I think it’s an amazing thing,” said Morby. “This is taking place in historically red-lined neighborhoods, which is a form of segregation that a lot of cities were built upon… So I think it’s really important. This is a way to fix up homes and get people to be able to own homes. This is wonderful.”