Ken Will Morton
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Ken Will Morton


Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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"True Grit Review (2010)"

Woe be the tired vocabulary of a roots music critic. After waxing eloquent over dozens of Americana records, I have found that my wellspring of superlatives has nearly run dry. Recently, perhaps because of lack of inspiration or sheer laziness, my favorite descriptor - gritty- has been flying from my fingertips with alarming regularity. I have used the term to describe guitar work, vocals, harmonica playing - anything that sounds, well, gritty.

So, with the thought that it would make me a better writer, I recently resolved myself to leave my cliché money phrase behind. I would expand my vocabulary. I would delve deeper into the English language. I might even use a thesaurus.

And then I got Ken Will Morton's recent release, and my plan was shot to hell. It's title?

True Grit.

I was paralyzed. Not by the record - it's fantastic. But the idea of getting through a review of a record called True Grit without using my most beloved of all rootsy adjectives stymied me. This review begged for it! Like Job, I was tempted to acquiesce, to cave, to renounce my faith and take the easier, grittier path.

But I didn't.

Instead, I embraced Morton's songwriting with a gritless mind. What I found was a down home elegance, where acoustic guitar subtly dances with harmonica, organ, and electric guitars over a distinctly country rock backbeat. Morton - who has escaped my notice, somehow, despite releasing four previous solo records - writes distinctly American music, with hints of rock 'n roll, blues, and country, all tinted with the folksy songwriter spirit of his lyrics.

Trial and tribulation are common fodder for the roots musician, but Morton captures the weary spirit better than most. Morton sings of perseverance on the title track, languishing self doubt on "Gambling Man's Blues," redemption on "On My Feet Again," and acceptance on "Don't Feel Bad For Crying." And Morton couldn't have done better when naming this record, as True Grit is spot on for this collection of songs - Morton does well in reminding listeners of both the grit that gets us down and the grit that pushes us to overcome.

True Grit, in all its grittiness, is out now on Sojourn Records.

- Honest Tune

"Kickin' Out the Rungs & Devil in Me"

originally published October 1, 2008

Ken Will Morton's music is
frustrating (and at times, downright annoying) to try and review and describe to others. I've had nearly a month to put his two latest releases into words, and it's been a trying process. Not only did he put out two albums at the same time, they're completely different. Devil in Me is his rock album (and my personal favorite) and Kickin' Out the Rungs is his acoustic album. It's not that Kickin' won't be enjoyed; some people will even prefer it greatly to Devil. That drives me crazy; everyone should just prefer the better album. By putting out two polar opposite albums at the same time, you'll more than likely greatly prefer one of them, or maybe you'll enjoy them exactly the same, but I have no idea how you'd do that.
Other reviewers, please do me a favor and stop calling people the next Dylan or Springsteen or Westerberg. There's not a review of Morton's out there that doesn't reference one of these giants, and it sets him up for a pretty lofty fall. The most dead-on description of him I could find compared the sound of some of his tracks to The Jayhawks, and that truly cannot be denied; nor is it any less noble to be compared to The Jayhawks than Dylan. The Jayhawks are/were a great band.
Kickin' Out the Rungs deserves to pretty much blow the coffee shop/singer-songwriter circuit on its ass. This is a genre that has gotten so bland and complacent by the incessant rehashing of ancient songs by Dylan, Springsteen and the like. Morton's well written songs are perfect for that setting. The stories get a little weighty at times, and I often found myself hoping for a little more music, and a little less balladry.
My only problem with Kickin' was that after the first time I listened to it, I popped in Devil in Me and it reminded me of going to a concert and thinking the opening act was pretty good, until the headliner comes out, and you realize they're the headliner because they're much better and powerfully controlling of your attention. The opening number "Devil in Me" is so damn good. It's a perfect first song. And "Made Up Mind," the second song, is just as good and so is the third. In fact, "Still Look Pretty," the fourth song, is the best song on either of his albums. It is easily as good as the great Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt gems from back in the day. The rest of the album follows a similar, and enjoyable pattern. See? You don't have to compare every musician who plays an acoustic guitar to Bob Dylan to give them praise.

- The Flagpole (Athens, GA)

"CD Review for Devil In Me and Kickin' Out The Rungs"

It’s hard for any artist to squeeze out one good album, much less two at once. It’s significant that Ken Will Morton hits more than he misses on these simultaneously released, but separately packaged, disks. Devil In Me covers his harder, WhiteStripes-type rocking side while Kickin’ Out the Rungs is more (but not exclusively) acoustic-guitar based. Neither dispels any notion that, growing up, this guy must have been a handful for his parents. If the choice was between putting him on Ritalin and buying him a guitar it seems they made the right choice to go with the guitar.
There’s not much conventional about Morton. An effective singer, his voice is apparently gig-worn. As a guitarist he is inventive and original and does a good job of expressing himself without depending on (recognizably) standard riffs. This works very well on Devil. There’s a definite air of self-exorcism when he cracks off lick after high-intensity lick. Like David Gilmour, or maybe even more like Neil Young, Morton is able to communicate his emotional state of mind through his almost anarchistic approach to the guitar. Playing, singing, or songwriting, Morton goes undeterred- and undistracted- where he wants to, and usually he gets there with the listener following willingly.
Rungs may be the more accessible of the two disks. Morton is neither tuneless nor anti-melodic, but his songs seldom end up where they started and he’s not much for hooks, which separates him from similar artists like, well… nobody. There’s a lot of rocker, some cowboy, some folkie, and some Nashville country in him, showcased in the Jayhakws-ish “Long Way Down.” And he is not shy about taking a sharp left in the middle of a song (“Fuddydud”). The effect is surprising, sometimes jarring, but Morton makes such detours work without turning them into MacGuffins.
Both discs feature all-original Morton compositions save for “That’s All Behind Me Now,” a highlight on Rungs co-written with Kristen Hall of the more traditional and significantly less provocative Sugarland. -RA
- Vintage Guitar Magazine

"CD Review of King of Coming Around"

October 2, 2006
The great state of Georgia has given us a slew of amazing music. R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Sound Tribe Sector Nine, the Drive-By Truckers, Randall Bramblett, and Vic Chesnut have all hailed from the "Empire State of the South." Well, another gripping musical act can now be added to this all-star roster - Ken Will Morton & The Wholly Ghosts. His new release, King of Coming Around, is a veritable blueprint for the Southern Rock sound that has graced all of our ears for over 4 decades. With a tone reminiscent of Bob Dylan, John Popper, and Tom Petty all rolled into one, Ken Will's music reeks of all the essential elements of classic Southern Rock music. The blues, R&B, and rock-n-roll are all present and accounted for in this powerhouse of an album, and the thumping drum lines, twangy guitars, drawling harmonicas, and country vocals perfectly season the entire record. The result is a sound that is very real and very nostalgic.
"Oh Lord," a raucous country effigy, perfectly exemplifies this nostalgic presence, and the constants of the country-rock musical genre are played with confidence and gusto in this tune. The electric guitars pull, slightly imitating the drawl of Southern speak. The drum line quickly and steadily pulsates, creating the perfect catalyst for some severe foot-stomping. Ken Will's voice switches from a nasally twang - heard throughout most of the album - to a deep, rough inflection.
This song represents the sound that is heard throughout the whole collection. It's a sound that is confident and mature. Throughout this compilation, Ken Will and the Wholly Ghosts hold nothing back, and it's plainly obvious that these guys are musically wise beyond their young years; they're very old-school. A perfect example of this "older than we look" persona that's perpetuated by the music comes in the form of lyrics in the song, "Movin' On."
Some say I left my mark
I'd say I did my part
But my body is weak
And it's time to get some permanent sleep
Yeah it's high time I be movin' on
These lyrics sound as if they belong to a 70-year-old man who's been through trials, pitfalls, triumphs, and loss, and it's almost as if they shouldn't fit so perfectly with the young Morton's intonation. Yet, surprisingly, they do. The purity of the music and the talent of the players make it easy to fall into the worlds of which they speak. It's easy to get on board with what they are telling you.
While the nostalgia of the album is the initial element that pulls you in, it's the simplicity of this record that makes it so refreshing. In a musical world where bands often get coerced into being better, bigger, and louder, it's nice to hear an artist who understands that sometimes less is more. There is no better example of this effortless mentality than in "Adelayda." The acoustic guitar sighs throughout the song, while a delicate pedal steel expertly plays along side. The gritty sound of Ken Will's vocals are replaced with a soft, demure overtone that almost lulls you to sleep, and the drum and bass lines are all delicately precise. Even the harmonica sings softly. None of the sounds over-power any of the others, and that's an ability that is only produced through many years of playing, or produced by someone who is truly talented. Ken Will is truly talented.
So... music infused with sounds that have stood the test of time, easiness, simplicity; that's what you get when you listen to this album. There aren't a lot of chances taken in the songs, but that's the reason why this album is so great. There's no fluff here. Ken Will's lyrics are direct and un-obscure, and the words are easy to sing along with. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this guy is some cookie-cutter pop star in the making. He's a Southern boy with presence, talent, and a kick-ass band. He can be easy or rough, but it's all damn good music.

"Show review from 2007"

On Sept. 7, Ken Will Morton and The Wholly Ghosts took the stage at 10 High in Atlanta. The venue hosts a wide variety of live music and is located deep in the belly of the Dark Horse Tavern, a popular bar and grill.
Imagine Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan in a blender- frappe.

Ken Will Morton forges elements of rock, Americana, and blues into an eclectic style that is nearly impossible to squeeze into any one genre. A subtle rasp gives his vocals an edge and compliments the intensity of his lyrics, and he seems to be channeling the spirit of Jimmy Page. Morton’s musical diversity, impressive songwriting ability, and considerable guitar skills indicate that he is well on his way to a successful career.

Morton’s lyrics are original, intelligent, and straightforward – a refreshing change from pop-culture’s insatiable appetite for clichés. His approach to songwriting is similar to that of an impressionist painter: the essential shapes and colors are there, but it’s up to you to decide what they mean.

“Great art speaks to people in different ways,” said Morton, “The ambiguity of a turn of phrase allows people to interpret the lyrics in a way that is meaningful to them.”

All great live bands are also entertainers– Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones– and Morton knows how to entertain with the best of them. During the show, I was amazed by Morton’s intensity. He poured so much emotion into his music, I thought he might puke out his soul at any given moment. If that’s not entertaining, I don’t know what is.

Morton worked hard to get where he is, and he doesn’t take his success for granted. “I’m blessed to have passionate followers,” said Morton. He is completely dedicated to his music, which provides not only his living, but his peace of mind as well.

Ken Will Morton released his second solo album, “King of Coming Around” in 2006 and is currently working on his next release as well as an acoustic album. He hosts a weekly singer-songwriter series at The Melting Point, a popular venue in Athens, GA. To listen to Ken Will Morton and The Wholly Ghosts, visit their website: .
- Kennesaw State Sentinel

"CD Reviews of King of Coming Around"

Harp Magazine

Ken Will Morton’s résumé includes the pop crunch of Wonderlust and the roots-punk verve of the Indicators, but it was his roots-blues 2004 debut solo album, In Rock ’n’ Roll’s Hands, that had critical tongues wagging and musical palm readers predicting bigger things for the singer-songwriter. For his sophomore album, King of Coming Around, Morton delivers on his debut’s potential by simply painting his proven material in progressively deeper shades of his influences and experiences. With a gritty, Dylanesque rasp and a passionate understanding of the common threads of roots-rock, blues and country, Morton triangulates a position between the Bottlerockets’ full bore Americana (“Vainglorious”), Steve Earle’s edgy country (“Fit to Be Tied”) and the Drive-By Truckers’ similarly toned and tuned neo-Southern rock (“Make Believe Love”). Like a translator enamored of all of the nuanced languages he’s learned, Ken Will Morton taps into the very essence of the genres he knows and loves.
By Brian Baker

Georgia Music Magazine
Winter 2006
By Holly Gleason

Ken Will Morton has a voice like an old raincoat worn over a baggy pair of pants with a taped-up pair of old boots. Broken-in to the point of almost decay, nothing feels so good, so broke-in, so much an article of one’s life – and it’s in the depth of willing to be what he is, settle in and honor the life experience that’s left him dented and a little crippled that the golden hope of getting through it shines through.

With chiming acoustic guitars surging through a pretty classic Americana garage band set-up and throaty harmonica darting through the waves of pastoral crunch, King of Coming Around is the bitter(sweet) harvest of a progressive rock/punk songwriter crawling from the wreckage with enough grace to make Tom Waits and Paul Westerberg proud.

With the loping “Fit to Be Tied” opening the set with its good-natured jettisoning expectations in the name of one’s own true inner compass, Morton succumbs to love’s draws, lust’s tug, friends’ foibles, demons that drag you down, telling the truth even when it stings, only to close the circle with the surviving into thriving title track that’s offered up with a twinging rasp and the smile stoicism of one who’s seen the worst and has no concern about the bottom.

In today’s world, hope grounded in how it is rather than honest portraits, rather than polaroids of unicorns, and emotions that’re cracked and patched together can offer more thrills – especially when delivered with serious downstrokes on the acoustic, sweeping melodies and chorus hooks that capture – than your garden variety pop record. Evoking the best of Nick Lowe, Morton’s King of Coming Around delivers with a bruised and battered heart on his sleeve.

- Harp Magazine and Georgia Music Magazine

"CD Review of Devil In Me and Kickin' Out The Rungs"

October 16, 2008

It takes a whole heap of ambition to release two albums simultaneously, but that's the route Morton has opted for via these two new offerings. Morton's been around for more than a decade, having parlayed his early punk approach into more rootsy terrain. Plenty of feistiness lifts Devil in Me, an uncompromising slab of kick-ass country that recalls Hank III, the Supersuckers, and the Legendary Shack Shakers. Kickin' Out the Rungs is the more civil of the two discs, and while there are echoes of the Eagles and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Steve Earle provides a common bond, in both outlook and attitude.

- New Times Broward-Palm Beach

"CD Review Devil In Me and Kickin' Out The Rungs"

From the opening note of Devil In Me, Ken Will Morton and his pack of hell-raising brethren go for the jugular. Guitar lines that streak out ahead of a tight rhythm section leave skid marks across your ear like a vintage muscled-up Camero sprinting off the start line. As the lead track comes to a close, there is no doubt about it these Georgia boys mean business. The tough bass line of “Made Up Mind” keeps things revved up and running hot, but the vocals do not grab your attention as much as other tracks. Tracks like “Boogie Shoes” and “Still Look Pretty” fill in some space with solid material but the band really lets it fly on “Cream of the Crop.” There is a vintage feel to the whole album, yet the guitar on this track screams of a ‘70s summer anthem. “Further Down South” has a simplistic groove with a more polished vocal sound. “My shirt is dirty and my eyes are red, Pounding shots ringing through my head, I’m leaving, I can’t live like this no more,” follows on the tail end of a funky drum intro. “Alcohol” takes on a rockabilly swing, as one might imagine. They can play a little twang, rev it for some roadhouse rock and roll, and create some hillbilly swing. Possibly the cd's best track closes out the album. “Muscadine Wine” adds a new level of harmonious vocals, and Morton sings out like a storyteller from any given tall-tale rich bar. The second part of this two-part review is of the deceptively laid back Kickin' Out the Rungs. “On My Feet Again” starts slow with a melancholy nature. Not at all what you might think of with a title like Kickin' Out the Rungs, yet a great representation of Ken Will Morton’s more authentic sound. “Get My Head Right” follows along with frolicking banjo, brushed drums, and a fun “If I could get my head right” sing-along. This is definitely a more comfortable sound for these musicians, yet both albums provide great insight to the artists. “Don’t Feel Bad for Cryin” floats along with beautiful acoustic guitar accompaniment, Morton’s vocals have just enough scruff to make the track seem perfectly flawed with character. “Fade Away” finds the boys making beautiful music once again. The recording has a little boom that helps to create a lonely vastness. Ken Will Morton is a deserved addition to the Americana music scene. There may be a little too much material to digest for the first time listener in this package, but songs like “Muscadine Wine,” “ Get My Head Right,” and “Further Down South” definitely give validity to the songwriter and hope for more to come. Devil in Me and Kickin’ Out the Rungs are out now on Rara Avis Records. - An Honest Tune

"True Grit Review (2010)"

Southern sounding singer-songwriter Ken Will Morton’s latest release True Grit brings to mind a cross between Tom Waits, Marah, Steve Earle circa Exit O and Ryan Adams. Whether it’s the safe but solid opening title track to the roots-rock nugget “Gamblin’ Man’s Blues,” Morton can pen a song with an equally strong melody. And thankfully Morton doesn’t ease off that quality pedal for a moment judging by the mid-tempo “Hard Weathered Life.”

Even when Morton slows things down slightly for a folksy train-chugging “Restless Heart,” his chops come to the fore. The melancholic ballad “Breathe” could be a disaster in some hands, but here it’s given a world-weary Americana hue which makes it soar effortlessly. What makes this record great is Morton’s knack for hitting all the right notes, from the sweet, memorable “On My Feet Again,” the rocky “Open Road” and the Jayhawks-ish “Don’t Feel Bad For Cryin’.” The simple pop of “Muscadine Wine” is equal parts Marah and John Mayer, but overall Morton excels at a time when even is beginning to sound formulaic. - Jason MacNeil - Glide Magazine

"True Grit Review (2010)"

What a difference a few years makes: Ken Will Morton was a promising singer and songwriter when he released his solo debut in 2004. Four albums later, he's grown into a potent storyteller.

"True Grit" (Sojourn Records), the latest from the Manchester High School graduate (who has long since relocated to Athens, Ga.), is a strong collection of folk songs with a country-rock edge. They're deeply felt portraits of hard-luck characters doing their best to get by, and Morton communicates their struggles in a raspy voice with an affecting catch in his throat.

He sounds resigned on "Gamblin' Man's Blues," growling electric guitar chasing his vocals; and accustomed to making the best of tough situations on "Hard Weathered Life."

It's not all downhearted, though: Morton strikes a hopeful note on "Don't Feel Bad for Crying," advocating for the good fight in the face of long odds; and admires the mettle of people who persevere on the title track.

Most of the songs are built around acoustic guitar, augmented with piano and electric guitar on "Muscadine Wine," lonesome harmonica on the title track and acoustic slide guitar on "Cannot Win for Losing."

It makes for a compelling concoction on these dozen songs as Morton digs deeper into a career that's well worth following. - Eric R. Danton - Hartford Courant


2010 True Grit/Sojourn Records
2008 Devil In Me/ Rara Avis Records
2008 Kickin’ Out The Rungs/Rara Avis Records
2006 King of Coming Around/Fundamental Records
2004 In Rock’n’Roll’s Hands/Self-Release
2003 The Indicators/ Kill The Messenger/Lynn Point Records
1999 Wonderlust/ A Great Release
1998 Wonderlust/ “The Frailties of Life” (EP)



After many years of strumming a six string, writing songs, stirring up trouble while touring the country, music has become the lifeblood of Ken Will Morton. He can't stop. is he nuts? probably. after many bombastic yet traditional rock band experiences, In the spring of the new millenium , Ken joined the fantastic Indicators. 2003 saw the release of the band’s sophomore CD, Kill the Messenger, a rootsy pop rock record, which received rave reviews from No Depression, Relix, Harp, Paste Magazine and more. he also learned a lot from fellow bandmates with far more skill and experience under their belts. In the summer of 2002, Ken backed former Guadalcanal Diary front man Murray Attaway as lead guitarist in The Redeemers for a few shows. While Ken had a great time with these projects, he wanted to pursue his ambition of becoming a full-time musician and simply find an outlet for his quickly acruing song reserves. He left The Indicators in spring of 2004, relocated to Athens, Georgia, and worked to finish his first solo record. In Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Hands was self-released in June of 2004. The recording process was a long and often difficult one for Ken, who spent a long year of sporadic recording with Chuck Jopski at Summer House Sound in Hoschton, GA. With a smoky, life-worn vocal styling reminiscent of Springsteen, Westerberg and Dylan, and heartfelt lyrics about the frailties of life, In Rock ‘n’ Rolls Hands captured the attention of music critics across the country. The disc has received rave reviews in No Depression, Harp Magazine, Paste Magazine and Performing Songwriter, as well as airplay on many charting non-commercial radio stations such as KUT in Austin, WNCW in Charlotte and WPPP hot 100.7 in athens. Ken toured the U.S. behind the release, sharing the stage with such folks as Tommy Stinson, Edwin McCain, Todd Snider, Sugarland, Dick Dale, Angie Aparo, Cary Hudson, Randall Bramblett, and more. A short tour of Ireland in 2004 included a performance at the renowned Ruby Sessions in Dublin. In March 2006, Ken Will released his second solo effort The King Of Coming Around on Fundamental Records. Recorded with producer Rob Gal (Josh Joplin, Swimming Pool Qs), and some with Ben Holst (Love Tractor), the album features the likes of Brann Dailor (Mastodon), John Neff (Drive By Truckers), Billy Holmes (Love Tractor) Kyle Harris (ex Kenny Howes and the Yeah), and Patrick Ferguson (ex Five Eight). A diverse collection of rock, pop, Americana, blues, gospel and folk songs, the album received favorable press from Harp, Paste, Georgia Music Magazine, No Depression, American Songwriter, and more. Morton spent the spring and summer of 2006 touring the Southeast in support of the record with his backing band, The Wholly Ghosts. In March of 2007, Ken Will performed two showcases at the annual South-By-Southwest convention in Austin, TX. Later that spring, he was nominated for “Best Solo Performer in Athens” by The Flagpole Magazine and made his 4th appearance at AthFest, the annual arts and music festival held in Athens, GA. Ken Will spent the winter of 2007 putting the finishing touches on not one, but TWO new full-length releases. Devil In Me is a collection of 10 new “rock” songs, recorded in the basement. On Kickin’ Out The Rungs, Ken Will once again aligned with producer Chuck Jopski at Summerhouse Sounds Studios. More of an acoustic based album, the CD features another 10 new songs, including “That’s All Behind Me Now,” a tune co-written with Kristen Hall of the multi-platinum band Sugarland. With two new albums in the can, and another coming out with new upstart label Sojourn , Ken Will is gearing up for a busy couple of years, following the path he set out on those many years ago when he moved a little further down South to follow his muse.

Management, publicity and booking:
Michelle Roche Media Relations
360 University Circle, Athens, GA 30605
706-353-3244 fax 706-353-8582