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 alt.country is beginning to sound formulaic.