Maren Morris 'Humble Quest' Album Review

After releasing GIRL in 2019 and scoring yet another hit in the pop zeitgeist with The Bones, fans and critics alike were eager to see what Grammy award-winning Maren Morris would do next with her career. Humble Quest, her third studio LP finds Morris in touch with her country roots while growing in sound as she reflects on the past few years with fresh optimism and looking towards the future with hope and resilience.

The first taste of Humble Quest comes as inklings of nostalgia with the opening track and first single that kicked off the new era, “Circles Around This Town.” As one of the most upbeat numbers on the record, it’s the perfect leader. The lyrics are endearing and determined as Morris recounts her journey as an artist. She sings about her first demos, paying for her first apartment, and even hints at her first successful singles as she states, “A couple hundred songs and the ones that finally worked / Was the one about the car and the one about a church / That I wrote / Drivin’ circles around this town” referencing “My Church and “80s Mercedes” from her 2017 debut record HERO.

“I Can’t Love You Anymore,” the third listing, features a misleading title; one may think it’s about not being in love with a certain person anymore, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about loving so hard, you feel as though you have nothing left to give. In this sweet ode, Morris confesses her admiration for her husband as she states, “Should’ve known what I was gettin in / Fallin’ for a boy from Michigan / You love your mom like every midwest kid / You like driving to Texas / You put up with all my exes / To deserve you, don’t know what the hell I did.” Her vocals are sweet, harmonious, and the song keeps a steady, light rhythm as it progresses. "I Can't Love You Anymore" hints at an overall theme of love and contentment. Humble Quest seems to be filled with Morris' most light-hearted and happiest music to date.

The title track is an immediate standout. It feels like a personal narrative to Morris who has unabashedly voiced her opinion in the past few years; something people in the country genre, specifically women, are usually told not to do. From voicing her thoughts on the scandal with Morgan Wallen and the racism within Nashville, to doing a photoshoot with Playboy - she’s received a fair amount of criticism.

“Humble Quest” is a testament to growth and discovery. She sings, “Got easier not to ask / Just kept hitting my head on the glass / I was so nice until I woke up / I was so polite ‘till I spoke up / I’m on a humble quest / And damn, I do my best / Not gonna hold my breath ‘cause I still haven’t found it yet.” The continuation to search for meaning can be beautiful, it doesn’t always have to be treacherous, and Morris assures herself of that. Besides the beautiful songwriting on this track, the instrumental is adventurous and spacious while Morris’ vocals are delicate in the verses but become quickly steadfast in the chorus enhancing the message.

In “Background Music,” the record gets intimate and sultry with an angelic falsetto from Morris while dark, electric guitars play in the distance. Its waltzing as Morris tunes out the world and focuses on her romantic relationship. On the flip side, Morris takes a more playful approach to her love life in the clever track “Tall Guys.” She exclaims, “He keeps me looking up when I’m feeling down / Yeah I can always find him in the middle of the crowd / When I can’t see over, he puts me on his shoulders / I can wear my heels real high / I’m a lover all types, but there’s something about tall guys.” Layered vocals that harmonize in the background add an almost whimsical notion to the track.

Another stop-in-your-tracks moment comes on track number nine, “Hummingbird.” The voice of Morris’ son can be heard saying the word, “Mama” through a fuzzy recording. Everything about this one makes it memorable. The songwriting, done by Morris alongside Lori Mckenna, Liz Rose, and Hillary Lindsey, acts as delicately written poetry with sparks of metaphors and evocative imagery. Morris takes an animal that always held significance to her, a hummingbird, and eventually turns it into a metaphor for her son who was not yet born. “Hummingbird, hummingbird you’re the sound of these strings / Hummingbird, hummingbird on my skin rest your wings / I’ll hold you in my loving arms / But I’ll let you fly free / Hummingbird, hummingbird now your heart beats in me.” The swaying instrumental is alluring with soft strums of an acoustic guitar.

Humble Quest closes out with the fitting piano ballad, “What Would This World Do?” It is the ultimate conclusion to end the record, that feels like a journey with Morris, with a question to the unknown. Morris sings above the stark piano chords as she gets existential about the amount of stars in the sky and the number of cars driving on the 405. In the second half of the first verse, Ryan Hurd, her husband and frequent collaborator, joins in on the background vocals. She confesses raw thoughts as she hums, “I know the sun will set into the ocean / And I know we’re gonna get to where we’re going / But I still got just one question that I can’t work through / What would this world do without you?”

The track seamlessly builds into the bridge as the piano notes get heavier and busier until it explodes with Morris’ belting vocals: “I’ll keep all your polaroids hanging on display / And I’ll drink the wine you gave me on my wedding day / Don’t know what I would do if your tomorrow never came / The only thing I’m sure of, I’ll never be the same.” Through her immaculate and visceral songwriting Morris juxtaposes her wisdom with turbulent feelings of grief, processing some of life's heaviest emotions.

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