As I’ve previously mentioned this week Kevin Morby’s latest is a double-wide opus to spiritual connection and a step away from his usual guitar grounded albums. It’s a big and bold move that’s vaulting Morby even further into the indie rock pantheon’s ranks of ambitious songwriters. That’s not to disparage his back catalog in the least, though. The artist’s rise over the last few albums has been a constant source of joy over here and its great to have Kevin contribute a pick to Hidden Gems. For his pick Morby dips back into his reserve of youthful influences for a Paul Westerberg solo jaunt. Check out how this Midwestern classic came into his life and ultimately what role it played in shaping his own works.
Morby recalls his introduction to the indie legend, “This was my first time ever hearing Paul Westerberg, believe it or not. I heard this thing long before I became obsessed with the Replacements in my later teenage years. At the time, I was in middle school in suburban Kansas and a fan of local heroes The Get Up Kids who were on Vagrant Records and I noticed that the label had just put out a new CD by some old man named Paul Westerberg. This was before streaming services and Youtube, so you really just followed the trail of whatever else was being put out by labels that held your favorite artists. The cover had a blown out black and white exposure of an older man taking what is essentially a selfie before selfies were something that one took. It looked personal and mysterious and I was intrigued enough so I ordered it and when it showed up, I was quickly blown away. I had never really heard music that…unprofessional before, and I truly related to it. It seemed fun and raw and vulnerable and private and though the recording was rough, it felt human and homemade, like something I could maybe one day make.”
“This record has proven to be a sort of secret handshake record when meeting people over the years,” admits Morby. “It’s flown under the radar, but for those of us are familiar, we’re obsessed and it’s spawned some instant friendships. Just recently I was working with producer Brad Cook and when we both discovered we loved this album our working relationship got that much tighter. This record was made by Paul himself in his basement in Minneapolis and he famously kept all imperfections and refused to fix any mistakes, giving it no real shot at radio or commercial success. So, I think in terms of his catalogue, that all contributes to why it’s widely unknown, but those mistakes are exactly what make it my favorite. And also – of course – the songs are incredible, and as one who grew up in the Midwest, this may be the most Midwest sounding album ever. I mean it’s a Midwest man making Midwest music about the Midwest in his Midwest basement, and there is nothing more Midwest then a Midwest man singing about the Midwest set to Midwest music in a Midwest basement, you dig? If I’m ever homesick for middle America while on tour, I put this on.”
So, naturally that leads me to ask if this has had an influence on how Kevin approaches songwriting. “Absolutely.” He says, “Paul Westerberg’s whole atheistic in general has helped lay the foundation for the kind of artist I set out to be at a young age, and still strive to be today. Always hold the music above everything else, and the only rule is: there are no rules.” Its a divisive take on post-Mats Westerberg, but the album still holds strong today and is widely available thanks to its issue on Vagrant. If you’ve been a lifelong Replacements fan but haven’t really delved into this side of Paul’s catalog or his solo catalog at all, this is perhaps a rougher place to start (maybe try 14 Songs). However if you skew towards Hootenany or Sorry Ma then perhaps this is the place for you to land after all.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.