Kimberly Morgan York’s Devil Songs and Other Such Nonsense features three originals and a single cover. It appears on the heels of York’s well-received prior recordings ready to generate additional enthusiasm for this Kentucky-born singer/songwriter and move the goalposts for her future. The respect she gets from her fellow practitioners in modern alt-country and/or Americana music shows in the virtual whos-who of the genre today making contributions to Devil Songs and Other Such Nonsense such as Bryan Howard and Kevin Sweeney, to name a few. These are songs aspiring to timelessness rather than sounding disposable; they’ll submerge themselves in your memory so that you find yourself singing their words or humming portions of their melodies long after the final notes fade.
She turns back the clock revisiting Terri Gibbs’ early-80s country hit “Somebody’s Knockin’”. This classic song of desire gets great treatment from York both as an all-out singer and a cunning interpreter of the material. She pays due deference to the original, yet her phrasing never wholly mimics Gibbs’ original and it’s interesting to note the differences in their approaches. The musical arrangement breaks with Gibbs’ original, as well. It never fails to echo the classic, however, and the balance between faithful rendering and new directions works in the track’s favor.
“The Devil’s in Durango” turns our attention towards York’s original songwriting. It’s cut from a classic country cloth complete with steel guitar accompaniment. The unmitigated highlight of the release, however, is York’s vocals and the plain-spoken conversational poetry of the song’s lyrics. York invests the right amount of emotion into her interpretation and her voice, juxtaposed against the steel guitar contributions, achieves a thoroughly retro sound while still coming across as contemporary. It’s a tricky line to balance and York does it exceptionally well.
The up-tempo charge of “The Devil Works All Year Long” builds from its shuffle-pace and never exhausts itself. York’s singing is more than able to keep up with the brisk clip set throughout the performance and she communicates the lyrics with clear, wide-eyed vigor. The steel guitar has a much more pronounced presence during this track than its predecessor and propels the song with its warm flurries of notes.
“Other Such Nonsense” pulls back on the reins for Devil Songs and Other Such Nonsense’s finale. It doesn’t mean this is a neutered performance, however. It’s far from that. York, instead, serves up arguably her most impassioned song on the release but gives vent to that passion through a bit of musical and vocal sleight of hand. She casts a withering eye towards the machinations of men with cheap patter and a host of tricks they bust out when attempting to woo a woman.
York has no time for it. She doesn’t dismiss it with chest-thumping bluster, however, but rather cool authoritative dismissiveness. It’s an outstanding conclusion for this release and a substantive songwriting achievement. Athens, Georgia’s Kimberly Morgan York has a winner on her hands with the EP Devil Songs and Other Such Nonsense that stands out on the year’s crowded release schedule.
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