By Jason Landry
These pipes tho’…That’s what I hope people are saying after listening to Nine Lives, the 2022 release by Kendra Morris (Karma Chief/Colemine Records). Morris flips the switch in the time machine back to the 1960’s and 70’s when R&B and soul music was popular and on constant rotation on almost every radio station on the dial.
Her super power is that she’s like a chameleon and able to shape-shift her voice in a way that resembles iconic soul singers such as Diana Ross on the track Drag On, Amy Winehouse on the track Dry, and even the vocal stylings of Adele are heard on Circle Eights. Although the similarities to these noted singers might be evident and often uncanny, Kendra Morris stands on her own as the ten tracks on this album are cohesive and full of hope.
Speaking of hope, take the track Penny Pincher for example. The minimal composition and vocal arrangement come off like a whisper. There’s a simple electric guitar strumming in the background and as the track builds, she’s trying to convince herself that everything will be fine if and when she finds the courage to move on from her current relationship–
“Everything’s ok. I’m smiling, ok. The truth is, I’m losing it inside.”
There’s a nice amount of reverb mainly applied to the drums and guitar on this album. This gives each song a soothing, dreamy quality that feels right at home with her tender vocals.
Her move to a new record label that embraces artists who hint back to an early time in music feels like a perfect fit. Just take a look at her label mates such as GA-20 and their affinity with old Chicago Blues or the Black Pumas who are as smooth as Marvin Gaye or any of the other crooners that came out of the Motown era. This marriage will give Morris the room she needs to explore the boundaries of her genre of music and carve a crystal clear path to express herself.
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