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Kimberly Morgan York: Classic Country Capturing That Keep On Goin’ Mentality

Credit: Jason Thrasher

Self-expression through music is a lifelong journey, often propelled rather than deterred by the fluctuations of life. Through a sincere love for the craft and a life well lived, country singer-songwriter Kimberly Morgan York has cultivated a refined approach to honest storytelling that resonates with love and loss.

Since York moved to Athens nearly 20 years ago in 2003, she has frequented the 40 Watt Club stage with a handful of well-known local artists and a mashup of bands. But on Friday, July 22, York takes the stage to celebrate her sophomore album release, Keep On Goin’. The notable backing band behind this project signifies where York has been so far in life, and the polished sound provides a glimpse of where she’s ready to go. You’ll find Scott Baxendale (guitar), David Barbe (bass, engineering), Carlton Owens of Cracker (drums), Jay Gonzales of Drive-by Truckers (piano), Matt Stoessel of Cracker (pedal steel) and Adam Poulin (violin) supporting York’s charming vocals on this album.

“If you live in Athens, you play a lot of different shows with a lot of different combinations and groups of people. I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to play with and sing with my heroes,” says York. “Everybody on the album I have played with before on some project, but I was honored and humbled by the fact that they were willing to come in and make a record with me and take it on the road this year.”

Earlier this year in January, York released her first album, Found Yourself a Lady, which was originally recorded in 2006 with York’s first local group, Kimberly Morgan & the Everlovin’ Band. The Everlovin’ Band was made up of Adam and Wendy Musick of Southern Bitch and York’s ex-husband Brad Morgan of Drive-by Truckers, and the four-piece was gaining momentum. Shortly after finishing this album, the Musicks moved to Virginia and York became pregnant, so the album was indefinitely put on hold.

Jason Thrasher

Since that point, York’s life has been full of music, love and, sometimes, heartbreak. Through it all, she’s never stopped writing her own personal library of songs, and COVID made her reevaluate what she really loved to do in life. Before she became a mother, York was “going for it,” and she found herself in a position once again to be able to focus on music as a career. York received encouragement from her close friend Baxendale and her husband Kevin York to take her catalog to the studio, so the timing felt right to finally release Found Yourself a Lady.

“I was like, is this dated? Is this still relevant? And come to find out, it’s actually probably more relevant now than it was when I recorded it in 2006,” says York. “There is just a real movement to bring back real country music right now—like, ‘save country music’ is a thing.”

Although York’s songwriting process has remained the same over the years, capturing emotions and moments that pour out of her, the perspective has matured. The new album’s title track “Keep on Goin’” echoes the sentiment with stories about finding inner strength despite, or in spite, of the negative, but in particular, the responsibilities and experiences often associated with women are highlighted here. York draws from a well of inspiration as a woman and a mother, but those titles also affect her persona as an artist. Reflecting on restarting a music career as a woman in her mid-40s, York expresses that it’s an uncomfortable feeling she’s pushed through.

“You know what the great thing is about doing it at 45? It’s really and truly all about the songs and story,” says York. “There’s just a confidence that comes with maturity that is a great trade off for youth.”

Art imitates life in York’s songs, as they are all very personal and raw accounts of her life—just “juiced up” a bit at times to reflect her emotional perspective. Among York’s favorite tracks on the new album is “Numb.” However, it’s a song that was difficult to perform at first due to its personal connection and dark subject matter. Recently filming a music video for this track, which is set to release around the time of the album, York explains that rewatching some of the footage was “disturbing” and “harsher” than expected. The honesty in the tracks is palpable, and many listeners just might find themselves inside the songs.

Jason Thrasher

Keep On Goin’ focuses on some of the darkest periods of York’s life as a collection of songs about struggle, but York notes that her life is “not so very tragic.” The album is merely the first installment of her story, and there are already plans for a follow up to round out the narrative and share the bright and happy things that came after the struggle. The cover of “Sharing the Night Together” at the end of the album is a signifier of hope and the turning point of these events.

The album release show at the 40 Watt on July 22 is meant to be a celebration—complete with fried chicken and a birthday cake. York says it’s a “family night,” with her stepchild from a previous marriage, Raven LaWrath, hosting the show. LaWrath’s country drag queens will also perform, in addition to special guest Claire Campbell. Vinyl pressed by Kindercore will be available for sale. For one night, everyone who walks through the doors of the 40 Watt will be family at this harmonic party.

“I hope my songs make people feel less alone in their journey,” says York. “I also want to entertain them and inspire people to laugh and let go.”

WHO: Kimberly Morgan York, Claire Campbell, and Raven LaWrath and Her Country Queens
WHEN: Friday, July 22, 8 p.m.
WHERE: 40 Watt Club