Sometimes genres are in place to classify artists and songwriters, and sometimes
it’s the other way around. In the case of Athens, Georgia-based
singer/songwriter Ken Will Morton, his debut solo record, In Rock & Roll’s
Hands, seems to single-handedly define the Americana genre. Morton’s stints
with bands such as Wonderlust and the Indicators, as well as a brief gig backing
former Guadalcanal Diary front man Murray Attaway in the Redeemers, only helped
shape his own chops and style.
“Little Victories” is Morton’s way of taking one day at a time, and a perfect
upbeat opening track, while “Unbreakable Heart” has more of a honky tonk flavor.
“Lessons in Dying Love” is not only the best track on this record, but easily
my top 10 for 2004. It’s just got that perfect marriage of melody, singing
guitars and emotive hook -- the way a song was meant to be written and
delivered, but rarely is in the real world.
The title track shows that Morton believes rock & roll is still the musical air
we all breathe, and a fine acoustic track at that. “Breaking Ties” is a perfect
sing-a-long for the end of a set and “Restless Heart” is another one of those
mood songs that simply makes you bob your head back and forth and enjoy. “Washed
Out” is a great track but, at less than two minutes long, leaves you wanting
more, and “Rebound Road” is the perfect closer, like the trailer in a movie or
the sun setting at the end of a day.
You can hear hints of Paul Westerberg, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in
Morton’s voice as well as in his songwriting, but there’s no mistaking that he
shapes his own sound. Twangy guitars, smoky voice, heartfelt storytelling,
they’re all here. In fact, close your eyes, and you can almost smell the beer
and the sweat from a hard day’s work at your local watering hole, with Morton
providing the soundtrack. This is Middle America at is finest.