Memphis makes beautiful music. Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded hits at Sun Studio, while Stax Records, a cradle of American soul music, played host to Otis Redding, Booker T. & The M.G.’s and countless others. Alongside Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Memphis is a Southern city whose music history is its history.
Memphis is a place that has endured much pain, too. A climbing crime rate and an ugly civil rights history give it a bad rap. But it’s like any other place, really—both good and bad, beautiful and grotesque. So it’s fitting that Memphis is the backdrop for Kevin Morby’s new album This Is a Photograph, in which a series of highs and lows blur against the very American sounds of folk, rock, gospel and blues, plus Morby’s own je ne sais quoi. Whether Photograph is Morby’s best album is hard to say just now, but it certainly ups his already stellar batting average. The man doesn’t make bad music (or if he does, he doesn’t share it). He has experimented with different moods and textures to great success throughout his decade-long solo career, and Photograph is the convergence of every move Morby has made before it.