Sometimes the most interesting listening experiences are provided by artists that you can't quite put your finger on. Kyle Morgan is one such artist. Upon first listen, the Harrisburg-raised songwriter lays down not-so-subtle shades of Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne – the brand of rootsy, Beatle-tinged arrangements and production Lynne brought to Fab Four offshoot projects like George Harrison's solo work and The Traveling Wilburys. Morgan then proceeds to weave in and out of a Bob Dylan/The Band-inspired sage Americana evangelist vibe – dark, dirt road wisdom.
What binds the consistency on Morgan's “Starcrossed Losers,” though, is his unflinching ability to dig within himself to not only reconcile past afflictions, no matter how painful, but provide a tentative peace with his tortured soul. When he tries hard enough, things even manage to come up pretty darn rosy. Best viewed through folk-colored lenses, the record is flavored with mandolin, fiddle, sax, and even banjo. Morgan succeeds in never sounding dated, due to his brilliant infusion of jangly power pop into his brand of Mississippi-strewn mud.
Tracks like “Sorry” can pass as Delta power pop, with a big chorus amid subdued horns and a cotton field stomp a mile wide. “And I Wept” is a gorgeous McCartney-esque acoustic serenade with hints of Everly Brothers influence, while “How They're Rolling,” also of passive acoustic persuasion, is much darker – almost a classic Southern murder ballad feel with eerily placed vocal phrasing. “Dealing Twenties” displays Morgan's brighter side, the open-chorded garage rock strum belies Morgan's repetitious, “Any day now, we'll see the truth.”
Though there are nine preceding tracks filled with various degrees of heart spillage, one gets the feeling the essence of the album's musical statement can be summed up in 1:24 of the album's final cut, “Out of My Reach.” Morgan, through succinct solo acoustic guitar and voice, offers but two lines: “I've learned to see, some things are out of my reach / I've learned to keep, some things out of my reach,” – a learned sense of introspection, grounded expectation, and musical preservation that rises far above Morgan's 20-something years.
Kyle Morgan 'Starcrossed Losers' Rating: W W W W