On her third studio album, the 14-time Grammy nominee effortlessly oscillates between haunting harmonies to whatever the female version of bro country is.
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It's fitting that the 2018 smash "The Middle" is the track Maren Morris is most known for outside the country-radio crowd.

As a songwriter, the Texas native appeared to float freely between genres, helping craft tracks for Tim McGraw, Jessie James Decker, Brothers Osborne, and ABC's Nashville — but also for Kelly Clarkson. Her horizons broadened further as she stepped into the spotlight herself: first singin' "hallelujah" on (and scoring a 2017 Grammy for) her debut single, "My Church," then finding crossover success on Zedd's "Middle" before forming country supergroup the Highwomen with Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, and Amanda Shires.

Morris' full breadth is encapsulated on Humble Quest, and it's far more ambitious than the title suggests. The 32-year-old's third studio album mines a rich yet relatable personal life. Her Nashville origin story plays out on the crisply modern lead single, "Circles Around This Town"; she vulnerably struggles to imagine a world without her dear friend and longtime producer Michael Busbee, who died in 2019 after battling cancer, on the stripped-down piano ballad "What Would This World Do?"; and she sketches a picture of her often long-distance marriage in both "The Furthest Thing," a dreamy duet with her husband, Ryan Hurd, and the twangy anthem "I Can't Love You Anymore." (Don't worry, it's wordplay.)

Maren Morris
Maren Morris
| Credit: Harper Smith

Oscillating between the haunting bluegrass harmonies of "Hummingbird" — a meditation on new motherhood that sounds like a lost Dolly Parton work — to whatever the female version of bro country is (on "Tall Guys" and "Good Friends"), Quest also squeezes in plenty of pop and rock influences.

It may not make for a cohesive sound, but in the age of Spotify, that seems less and less important. Morris' impressive storytelling is a solid-enough unifying factor. "Trying to say something with meaning/Something worth singing about," she reflects on "Circles." Fair to say she succeeds. Grade: B+

Humble Quest is out today.

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