The crossroads is where, sooner or later, every musician will eventually end up. At this fateful crossing under the scorching sun, a crippled tree in the middle, underneath it the devil himself, broadly grinning and ready to gamble for your soul – with loaded dice, make no mistake. Here, in the godforsaken middle of nowhere, where half the music world sealed their fate for a tiny morsel of talent, is also where I am Korny once found himself. With a hat on his head, a guitar on his back and dusty boots he stood there, gazing west. Behind him security, the daily grind, a life well ordered. Before him the open road, before him uncertainty. Freedom. As so many before him he walked straight ahead, away from his life, no look back, right into a life full of austerity and insecurity. However, who wants to live an easy life if the alternative provides you with much better songs? Or, as I am Korny puts it: “Music needs drama.”
I am Korny is a unicum among his fellow German musicians. Visually, musically and lyrically way more at home in heartland America than anywhere else – in these borderlands between North and South, between Blue and Dixie – his songs are morbid and bittersweet allegories on life on the road. “I am roving around quite a bit to play as much as I possibly can,” he says. “That’s what shaped my songs: being constantly on the road, experiencing that rare freedom. And the bumming feeling to miss everything back home.”
Six of these songs now make up his EP “Sleep Ain’t Paying My Dues”. In those, he fully becomes that wandering vagabond of gloomy sounds, fatally infected by America’s sheer vastness, by that never-ending wanderlust, that thirst for freedom and adventure. It all began in 2013, on a porch somewhere in Cincinnati, with his guitar in his lap, gazing over the mighty Ohio river. “Back then I had already given up on music,” he says. But music hadn’t given up on him just yet. In many ways, I Am Korny is the musical counterpart to Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”, a young singer/songwriter who bargained his soul for the gift of musical craftsmanship. Who has to be on the move. A restless soul among the restless, ever driven, ever twitchy.
To be sure, this topos of the melancholic solitaire is probably the oldest allegory in Western music. That’s because to this day, it’s the most striking, too. And, when filled with hear, soul and passion, by far the most touching of them all. Korny nods. “This music hits me hardest. Nothing is faked, it’s coming from way deep down, directly from the fingers.” Whatever it is I Am Korny got in exchange for his soul at the crossroads: His new EP “Sleep Ain’t Paying My Dues” speaks of a very striking bargain. Guided by Americana’s tragic icons, by the curmodgeonly anti heroes of southern Garage Rock and a musical narrative straight from the revered pages of the Great American Song Book, I Am Korny is painting his very own picture of a musical pilgrimage right into the heart of desire. Melancholic, elegiac, a little gritty. But always authentic. Always with his heart on his sleeve.
The phantoms and the dreamers, the heroes and the villains, the brave and the desperate all find their home in his songs. His is the music of an outlaw perceiving his otherness not as a burden but a crown. Thus, every maverick since the dawn of rock’n’roll is walking by his side. Just like Nick Cave, like the Black Keys or Alberta Cross, I Am Korny is distilling the American dream and the American nightmare, the promises of the west and the myth of that endless land into murder ballads about the underbelly of love.
The staggering bar blues of “Colorado” has the tilt of a booze filled night in a Rocky Mountains saloon, “Vampires” intoxicates with a sluggish waltz and southern gothic pastiche, the distorted rock anthem “Sleep Ain’t Paying My Dues” is seamlessly fitting his vagabond attitude who just can’t afford to go to sleep. “House of Cards” exposes his emotional turmoil with the cracked inventory of a painful failure, “Seashelled Heart” is the ghost of a love song and “Run Rabbit Run” bears the very essence of the artist: Onwards, ever onwards, never looking back. Even after realizing you can’t outrun yourself.