In Maren Morris’ sixth studio album Humble Quest, the country-pop singer delivers an authenticity unseen by audiences from the past. The LP allows listeners to follow the artist on her complex journey, grappling with grief and postpartum depression; at the same time, it tracks the blossoming of a colorful love story. The combination allows Morris to find herself as both an independent woman and artist.
Many of the tracks on Humble Quest seem to open up the pages of Morris’ personal diary. The intimacy with which she asks herself existential questions — about what a healthy relationship looks like, how to become a better wife for her husband, mother for her son and person for humanity — is seen best on the record’s title track.
Over rhapsodic piano chords and guitar riffs, Morris completely accepts her faults of the past and re-centers herself around the basic affirmation that it’s okay to feel like you don’t know what you are working for. She exalts the sheer beauty of human emotion as the jewel that makes life worth living. When defining the word humble within the context of her LP, Morris told NPR that for her throughout the creation of the album “the word has changed.”
“I think it means you’re the closest to your compass that you’ve ever been. How in touch are you with yourself and your loved ones?” Morris said. “I think taking that power back with that word is why I wrote the song.”
Other ballads on the record include “Background Music” and “What Would This World Do?”. These tracks feature stunning, emotional vocals that blow many of her shallow, made-for-radio past hits out of the water. “What Would This World Do?” is a sensitive meditation on the death of her long-time, beloved music producer Michael Busbee, who died of brain cancer only weeks after Morris wrote the lyrics to the track. With a country twang, the artist contemplates the world without Busbee in it, practically pleading as she sings, “I don’t know what I would do if your tomorrow never came.”
Morris’ close relationship with Busbee and her grief at his passing stain the LP with candor and darkness. The loss of a mentor-like figure coincides with the birth of her son, and the album reflects the circle of life through complicated moral ruminations. Her son, Hayes Hurd, is the only noted feature on the album, cooing “Mama” at the beginning of “Hummingbird,” a lilting melodic lullaby dedicated to the experiences of new motherhood.
While many of the tracks dive into unfiltered suffering and contemplations, other songs maintain the same autobiographical storytelling but over upbeat instrumentation, with a twang reminiscent of the artist’s classic old country singles.
Morris’ quips in “Tall Guy” or the unexpected eerie guitar in “Nervous” demonstrate that Morris is adaptable, not fixed or limited by a single genre. She cross-pollinates, pulling elements from different styles to compose a snappy, groovy composition unique to each track.
The LP’s single, “Circles Around This Town” is a retelling of Morris’ rise in the country music scene. In a clever homage to the songs that got her to where she is today, the singer still acknowledges her uncertainty, admitting she is still trying to find “something worth singing about.”
Yet, there are no doubt audiences will find something worth listening to when they escape into Morris’ Humble Quest. Whether they are looking to break it down on the dance floor or drink wine with a loved one, Morris finds a way to speak candidly about both her pains and joys. She appeals to the common human experience and ensures nobody walks away unattached.