Ken Will Morton’s “Contenders”
“Morton is casually throwing himself in the ring with many musical contenders of yore in a string of songs that tell the tale of simply making it, growing older and hopefully wiser in the process.” -HollyHolly Etchison
out of 10
Ken Will Morton
November 1, 2011
In his third release, Contenders, Athens, Ga based singer songwriter Ken Will Morton has taken an acoustic turn. With a nasally, gravelly voice and jangling guitar, Morton is casually throwing himself in the ring with many musical contenders of yore in a string of songs that tell the tale of simply making it, growing older and hopefully wiser in the process.
The album’s first offering, “Broken Windows” is something like Bob Dylan and Randy Newman meeting accidentally in a round robin. Which isn’t a bad thing, per se. Just, I kept picturing Buzz and Woody vying for Andy’s attention to the tune of “Strange Things”, which as we know, is pretty catchy. Underneath the song’s jaunty exterior is the sentiment that life’s not easy, things aren’t what they seemed they’d be and the cracks in the pane mar the view in front of us: “the more you live, the less you wonder why.”
In “Que Lastima (What a Pity)”, Dylan and Newman now find themselves in a cantina. Maybe John Prine is there too. Definitely to be found are the later more pragmatic ponderings of Dylan in albums like “Time Out of Mind”, the lyrics serving as a sort of jaded warning against the follies of life and living: “only one way to be, to be or not to be. ..what a pity, next time it could be you.”
“Swan on the River” is a happy departure as a story song set to banjo and harmonica that remind a bit of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time” album. Juxtaposed with the ups and downs of a man trying to find happiness is the image of a swan, calmly gliding by. It works as a folk tune.
The slow song I was listening for finally arrives with “Too Soon”. Its heartfelt piano hearkens, if you will, moments of “A Day in the Life”, and twinges of Elvis Costello’s sincere crooning are heard in the simple ballad.
It seems Ken Will Morton sings because of and despite himself, effortlessly, in an unwitting fashion. Because he likes to. Staying true to this trend and going with his gut, it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. The famous quote from Brando as Terry in “On the waterfront” echoes..”I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.”