Ken Will Morton – Contenders

January 01, 1970

(Ghost Meat)


In describing the music the sound Ken Will Morton’s
maintained over the course of his short but prolific career, the words
“austere” and “authentic” generally tend to come to mind. Not that Morton
withholds his emotions – far from it in fact – but in conveying his simple
truths and homegrown observations he gets directly to the point and opts not to
flounder once he gets there. Much like John Prine or Kris Kristofferson, he
doesn’t concern himself with unnecessary embellishment or hyperbole, and for
that reason, he can sometimes seem dry and despairing. Nevertheless, his weary
narratives reflect the tumult of our times and ring that much more authentically
as a result.


Contenders, the
latest in a series of strikingly affecting offerings from this Athens Georgia
homeboy, continues to mine that same fertile terrain, and while the
arrangements are as stripped down as ever, the songs aren’t any less compelling
as a result. Morton’s unassuming approach is deftly displayed on songs such as
“Broken Windows” and “Que Latisma,” songs of remorse and reflection, but his
take on the otherwise obscure Kinks tune “Strangers” (written by the band’s
second string composer, Dave Davies), is especially engaging, a sad yet hopeful
bid to connect. Morton’s raspy vocal has a troubadour tone to it, sounding
midway between Dylan and Steve Forbert in its down home demeanor. And when he
sums up his state of satisfaction on “Happy Enough” and “Powder King,” or
dabbles with some of Dylan’s wordplay on “Swan on the River,” his charms are
all the more evident.


Ultimately, given the best this set has to offer, Contenders couldn’t be a truer choice
for a title.


DOWNLOAD: “Strangers,” “Happy Enough,” “Broken Windows” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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