Songwriter Brady Earnhart reviews Love Wounds & Mars

Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers, Love Wounds & Mars

My first and strongest impression of this album is that it rocks—for better and worse. Sometimes it leans hard into Southern stadium rock, Dylan (“Nowhere Road”), Pink Floyd (“Mexico”), and Dire Straits (“Don’t Look Down”). The vocal phrasing and the feedbacky high lead guitar wails permeate some of the songs with hard-to-ignore nostalgia.

Still, what’s most salient and consistent about the sound of the album is what a well-seasoned band sound it has. The instruments and vocals lean against one another like old friends on a couch—at times you lose track of whether you’re listening to organ, fiddle, or pedal steel, for instance, yet the production never feels overdone. The party is just crowded enough.

A few of the high points for me: “Nowhere Road” with its appropriately driving feel—the background vocals and instruments move with the momentum of a train—and the haunting image of “a drowning man / just clutching onto a razor blade.” “Blind Man” has for its tragic central trope a guy who can’t see but can’t stop watching. The wry political wink at the end (“drill baby drill”) makes the song add up to a rollicking lament for runaway capitalism.

I have to agree with the reviewer who called “Like a Haze” the strongest cut on the album, yet it’s hard to pin down exactly why. The melody is as loose as the referentiality of the lyrics, draped over the very definite atmospherics of the accompaniment. The song is almost without hooks, in the conventional sense; instead, it is a hook, holistically. It wears its ambiguity on its sleeve, and it earns it. “Take a few of those back”—a few whats? But this approach doesn’t come off coy so much as coherent with the swampedness of the relationship depicted here: the singer is similarly out of his depth with his beloved and with language, and the parallel works.

I’m also fond of “Diamond Mask” – the non-sequitur progressions and the near-synesthesia of the imagery (“I need to hear a railroad song / straight for two miles long”) fall perfectly in line with the song’s footloose content.

Love Wounds & Mars brings us striking new American designs. The characters feel unique and authentic. The characters feel unique and authentic. They’re fresh inhabitants of a world we know—not old, but definitely not foreign to our ears. Still better, Morris’s lyrics here (as on Songs from Candyapolis) love the incidental poetry of language uttered before it quite coalesces into literal meaning: “high-water booty from Knoxville,” “watch the hickory as it seeps,” “the third ring of coincidence,” “I come from many sins in the west.” The result is a fetching, benign vertigo—we find ourselves on just the other side of clear. The right side.

–Brady Earnhart
Brady Earnhart.com .