Korby Lenker — Man in the Maroon
You know that type of guy who’s good at pretty much everything he decides to take up, to the point that it’s a bit frustrating? Outwardly, East Nashville’s Korby Lenker is that guy, but it turns out there’s a lot of hard work required to become good at writing short stories (2015’s collection, Medium Hero) and creating (and acting in) a television series (Morse Code, currently in development). Hell. he’s even got a book club featured on his website. Most importantly for our purposes, though, is Lenker’s main job: playing music. Korby’s eighth studio album, Man in the Maroon, features an artist who chooses not to be captured in a single musical box and will even learn a new style of playing to further his songs.
The album’s lead track, “All In My Head,” is a fairly straightforward rock song, but it also portrays a man that, for all his talent, might not quite believe in himself – “Pull out my phone just to check in on the scene/Looks like everybody on there doin’ better than me.” Later, though, he’s learned to tune out the noise and get back to work – “Last time I checked I’m not dead yet/Still get a chance, still got a choice.”
Love and its aftermath are sprinkled across Man in the Maroon. “Papercuts” is a bluesy tune full of enough spite to drive the girl away – “”It’s all or nothing with me, baby/And I won’t ever let you love me.” “Christmas Rain,” though, is the kind of regret that comes after she leaves – “I got a way/Of turnin’ pretty diamonds into coal/I got this wrapped up box of black rocks/I got this head chock full of sad thoughts.” But the pleasantly bouncy “Soft as a Cactus” (like “Papercuts,” featuring vocals from Erin Rae), finds simple pleasures in a less complicated love – “It’s a pretty nice day/To get out the bikes/We could ride through the neighborhood.”
The highlight of the album, and the song with the most intriguing story behind it, is found in “Crow Country.” A couple of years back, Lenker unexpectedly lost his younger sister, Kenna. He retreated to a ranch in Montana, withdrew, and eventually taught himself to play clawhammer banjo and wrote new songs. “Crow Country” comes out of that time. It’s banjo-driven, but also quite haunting, and it features Native American artist Bill Miller on vocals and Native American flute, a friend-of-a-friend type of connection that ends up elevating an already-very good song (turns out that, if you dip your toes into enough professional pools, you’ll end up with some pretty beneficial friendships). The song itself is about love and loss, but also about extending the relationship past that loss – “Love, it ain’t like how they said it was/It doesn’t end/Even when it’s over.” Those relationships, and those people, leave a mark that won’t ever go away.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Billie Louise” – It’s an instrumental featuring Lenker’s excellent work on clawhammer banjo, with just a bit of percussion from co-producer Skylar Wilson. Damn – the mad really CAN do anything…
Man in the Maroon was produced by Skylar Wilson and Korby Lenker, engineered by Parker Cason, mixed by Justin Faancis and mastered by Casey Wood. All original songs (and the included short story, “Mose and Ella”) were written by Lenker, with co-writing credits going to Jimmy Linville and Daniel Pingrey (the record also features Lenker’s take on “Moon River). Additional musicians include Wilson (Hammond Organ, keyboards, percussion), Bennett Lewis (electric guitar), Phil Lawson (drums), Michael Rinne (bass), Tim Lauer (organ), Bill Miller (harmony vocals, Native American flute), Sarah Summer (harmony vocals), Tim Lauer (string arrangement), Erin Rae (harmony vocals) and Emma Fitzpatrick (harmony vocals).
Go here to order Man in the Maroon: https://www.korbylenker.com/merch
Watch for tour dates: https://www.korbylenker.com/tour
Yes, he REALLY has a book club: https://www.korbylenker.com/korbys-book-club