Maren Morris returns with her new album Humble Quest, a collection that sees her navigate back to a slightly more country-centred flavour after her 2019 LP Girl. The album sees Maren tackle new love, motherhood and loss on the set, which delivers eleven tracks set to please both fans of the singer’s pop and country numbers.
Opening with the stellar Circles Around This Town, a track which pays loving homage to Maren’s biggest country hits 80s Mercedes and My Church, we get a sense that Maren is returning to a more traditional country sound than her 2019 mid-tempo heavy Girl album. The autobiographical track shines with producer Greg Kurstin’s mellow country-grooves and Maren’s powerful wistful vocals. Followed by The Furthest Thing, Maren sings “Three weeks gone / Miss your face / Same old songs / Different stage…” capturing a sense of the isolation and loneliness of touring life. Backing vocals from Ryan Hurd complement Maren’s honest vocal, atop a slow-burning acoustic guitar driven groove. I Can’t Love You Anymore has the style of a classic, country love-song thanks to its traditional production and wholesome earworming lyrics as Maren croons “I can’t love you anymore than I do now / I can try to talk you down / But I can say without a doubt / I can’t love you anymore than I do now.” This is a wholesome number that invites us into its woozy barroom vibes with guitar and piano instrumentation and Maren’s smooth vocals.
There’s a slightly more pop-centric lean on the title track Humble Quest – packing a big chorus with an ambitious vocal which soars alongside smooth electronic-flavoured production and captivating piano melodies. It makes sense that this gets the honour of being the title track, it feels grand without trying to hard, retaining an intimate and emotional flavour. Pre-release track Background Music – another contribution from Kurstin – hits hard with its emotional lyrics “We got time, but we’re only human / We call it forever but we know that there’s an end to it / You and I can dance our way through it / And I’ll love you ’til all that we are is background music…” This is a love song with a bittersweet melancholy at its core, as Maren expands: “I wrote ‘Background Music’ about the beauty of the temporary, which is inevitably all things. The romanticism of eternity sounds nice, but I like to think I savour things better when I know I’m not entitled to it in perpetuity.” Nervous follows and packs a moody, near Bond theme style flavour with Maren crooning against sharp, angry electric guitar chords. There’s an edge that arrives by the chorus and its rocky-brashness. Sonically this is very different to the rest of the album and shines through its bolshy attitude.
Tall Guys feels like a further evolution of Maren’s Hero sound, an ode to the appeal of tall men, Maren delivers this woozy mid-tempo channelling a sense of fun and playfulness against slinky multi-instrumental grooves. With lines like “They keep me looking up / When I’m feeling down / I can always spot them / In the middle of a crowd…” the track is a wonderful showcase for Maren’s more cheeky side. This is followed by Detour, another full-blown country treat bolstered by percussion beats powering through the melody as Maren croons “As long as I still get to be yours / I don’t mind a detour.” Another number that feels beautifully natural and unforced in its loved-up lyricism and vocals, Detour is a treat.
Hummingbird has a more experimental flavour in its stripped back construction – Maren’s haunting vocal shining atop near acoustic production at points. The charming laid-back penultimate track Good Friends, an ode to friendships and positive relationships that can survive any hardship, heard as Maren purrs “If we live to a hundred / Right through to the next drink / I swear to God on my heart / Nobody will know ya’ like me…” The easy-going production style and Maren’s sensitive vocal help this become a quick favourite. Closing track What Would This World Do? opens with emotive piano chords and poignant lovestruck lyricism. Once again accompanied by Hurd, the album is a beautiful closer as it ponders one’s impact on the world – inspired by the passing of Maren’s regular producer busbee.
Humble Quest delivers through its emotive and honest lyricism and elegant production ranging from traditional country to easy-going mid-tempos. The singer’s vocal range is on full display on this album which bridges the gap between Girl’s more pop-centric singer-songwriter sound and Hero’s country pop flavour. The results are out and out success.