[sic] Magazine

Night Shop – In The Break

They say it’s not the winning that counts, but the taking part. Well, with an album like In The Break, it’s not the destination that counts, but the journey. The debut solo album from the Kevin Morby band, The Babies and Flat Worms drummer-turned-songwriter Justin Sullivan is a real family affair as it features fellow Flat Worm Will Ivy on lead guitar, former touring and recording partner Meg Duffy (also of Hand Habits) on bass and unobtrusive backup vocals, as well as Mare label-mate Anna St. Louis on equally way-in-the-back vocal support.

Sullivan’s solo material is simple music, heavily influenced by Morby’s melodic and scuffed storytelling, undeniably too by the looming shadow of Bob Dylan and his rich, conversational rock ‘n’ roll. A lot of the heavy lifting is consequently left to the intimate lyrics and Sullivan’s smart slant rhymes; the longer you spend with them the more they open up. This lends him a poetic credibility in line with his forebears, his carefully chosen words often tripping off the tongue in one long, uninterrupted stream. It almost goes without saying that it can be easy to overcook this sort of thing, but Sullivan has the talent to let his small list of ingredients each come to the boil in turn.

Laidback songs to put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step, In The Break traces a direct line through its contributors start to finish, and it’s no surprise at all to thus find Jarvis Taveniere of Woods engineered the whole thing for these are truly blissful, outdoorsy summer vibes. Sullivan is best though when tackling wistful laments such as the beautiful “On The Island”, here the soft plodding of drums almost his only accompaniment. And, just as dialled back, the blissful title track latterly spirals off into a shimmering fade-out that, in every way, is a cut above the ability and vision of your usual singer-songwriter. Generous concessions to shuffling heartland rock and lovely guitar dappling such as on “My Love” only strengthen his case.

Pleasant as In The Break all is however, in parts it’s neither strong enough in melody nor voice to linger long in the memory. Sullivan’s skill lies in his offering of earnest accounts in acoustic form and so he’s further let down by the silliness of the otherwise engaging head-nodder “You Are The Beatles”. Going someway to address the issue though, the album does close out with “Where Does Everyone Go?”, a surprisingly rousing finish which will surely end all of Sullivan’s solo live shows forever. Whether this marks the end of a journey or the start of a new one it’s hard to say, but in either case you can bet your bottom dollar Sullivan will keep on competing, no doubt too winning the odd battle along the way.

Best track: “On The Island”

~In The Break is released September 28th 2018 via the collaborative efforts of Mare Records and Woodsist.~