JOVM mainstay Kendra Morris is a Florida-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, musician, and multi-disciplinary artist. As a singer/songwriter and musician, Morris can trace the origins of her music career to discovering the joys of multi-tracking and harmonizing with herself on a karaoke machine in the closet of her childhood home.
Morris went on to play in cover bands in Florida before relocating to New York with her band, which played her original material. Her first band split up and she dealt with the aftermath by writing material alone on an 8-track recorder in her closet. Sometime after, she met longtime collaborator and producer Jeremy Page and signed to Wax Poetics, who released her full-length debut, 2012’s Banshee.
The Florida-born, New York-based JOVM mainstay self-released her sophomore effort 2016’s Babble. She went on to collaborate with the likes of DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, MF DOOM, Czarface, Ghostface Killah, Dennis Coffey and Dave Sitek among others. And while being a grizzled, New York scene vet, Morris’ work generally embodies a broader sense of American culture, drawing from a wide array of influences across music and film dating back to the mid 20th Century.
Morris’ most recent album Nine Lives was released earlier this year, Karma Chief Records. While being her first full-length album in about a decade, the album for Morris represents a major turning point in her life both professionally and personally: For Morris, the album heralds the beginning of a new chapter, an evolution to the next level of adulthood — and the first on her new label. The album’s material encapsulates moments from what could easily be nine lifetimes lived over a chronological time period — or nine lives lived simultaneously in parallel and convergent realities in the multiverse.
I wrote about three of the album’s singles:
- “Penny Pincher,” a slow-burning ballad about reaching the end of the road in a relationship, fueled by regret, heartache, acceptance and steely determination to go forward with your life.
- “Nine Lives” is a strutting, hook-driven bit of soul pop jam centered around Morris’ sultry vocals, stuttering boom bap beats, squiggling guitar, and glistening Rhodes arpeggios that sounds as though it could have been released between 1992-1996 or so.
- “Circle Eights” is a slow-burning song centered around twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line, a steady rhythm and Morris’ soulful vocals full of a deeply aching yearning.
Earlier this year, Morris stopped at Colemine Records’ Cinncinnati area-based Tupelo House Studio to lay down some stripped down version of tracks from her then-forthcoming album. While she was there, she recorded a hauntingly gorgeous version of the Jeff Alexander and Tony Wilson penned “Come Wander With Me,” a song written for and featured in a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone with the same name. “Come Wander With Me” was the final episode to be filmed of the series — and interestingly, the song has a connection to Cincinnati: The Twilight Zone can trace its origins back to Cincinnati, where it was originally known as Rod Serling’s The Storm in the mid-’50s.
Both versions are so gorgeous, so haunting that I stopped in my tracks when I heard them. Rooted in heartache, longing, the desire to escape a sad world of devastating heartbreak and loss, “Come Wander With Me” at its core, is a lament older than time itself.