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Ken Will Morton Will Get Your Head Right

The New Now

Anyone who's a fan of music has probably found themselves in this sort of predicament at one time or another. A friend, a friend of a friend or a family members is in a band performing at some local watering hole and you're invited to come show your support. This leaves you with a few options. Do you tell a white lie about having to wash your hair or do the laundry? Do you attend and hope the music isn't too God-awful? I've been in that situation dozens of times over the years. Usually I just grin and bear it and try to be polite. I was in that situation again on Monday (April 6) night. An old friend was in town and her boyfriend was performing at a showcase sponsored by performing rights organization Broadcast Music, Inc., more commonly known as BMI. I didn't expect much, but planned to go to the performance to see my old friend and boy was I pleasantly surprised.

My old friend's boyfriend is Ken Will Morton, a Connecticut-born singer/songwriter transplanted to Athens, Georgia. He's been releasing albums under his own name since 2004 to some acclaim and modest sales, but he's still a struggling indie artist waiting for a big break. Check out Ken's video for "Devil In Me," the title track from his 2008 album.

BMI's Acoustic Lounge-held at Genghis Cohen, a funky Chinese restaurant/performance space on the edge of Los Angeles' Fairfax district--was supposed to feature four performers, but as luck would have it, the two women on the bill were no-shows. This meant more songs from Ken and the other featured performer, Manuel Romero, a young singer/songwriter from Northern California, who sings in Spanish and English. The difference is the artists' style was as broad as it was refreshing. Just imagine Paul Westerberg sharing the stage with a young Jon Secada. Ken played his acoustic and blew harp on his various tales about losers and life's harsh realities, including a little ditty called "Get My Head Right," about some good ol' boy who self-treated his mental ills with a combination of televised NASCAR and some wacky tobacy. Manuel crooned sweetly and smoothly in Spanish and English about love and loss, including a tune about a classmate who tragically killed by a stray bullet at a party. Ken complemented Manuel on his silky vocals, cracking that "he could sing the phone book" and even left the stage at one point to get the young performer a glass of water. Manuel testified that he was honored to share the stage with Ken and watched intently as he passionately thrashed at his guitar.

Someone in my party suggested that Manuel, with his teen-idol looks and sweet voice, would make an ideal American Idol contestant. Ken, on the other hand, showed off his humor and considerable talent during the evening. At various times during his set, he recalled Ryan Adams, Paul Westerberg, Jack White, and Bob Dylan. I wondered why those guys have made it and Ken hadn't yet quite caught on. Was it luck, timing or that one elusive hit song that put those guys on the way to stardom? The good news it that Ken seems unfazed that he hasn't quite hit the big time yet. You can tell he performs because he has to. He has no choice and eventually he'll get his due. Perhaps it's already started to happen. His song "Oh Lord" was featured prominently in an episode of the Discovery Channel reality show, The Deadliest Catch, which Ken noting from the stage on Monday night, resulted in a nice paycheck. Check the video clip, featuring footage from The Deadliest Catch and Ken performing, and let me know if you think Ken's a catch who's time has come?

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