REVIEW: RB Morris “Going Back to the Sky” is Increasing Levels of Intimacy


Teaming up with Bo Ramsey and a collection of seasoned vets including harmonica ace and longstanding Willie harmonica player Mickey Raphael, RB Morris’s latest, Going Back to the Sky, stakes a claim on being his best. Going Back to the Sky presents a collection of stripped down bare bones songwriting rehydrated in a cinematic landscape. Produced by Bo Ramsey and RB Morris, engineered by Duane Lundy, recorded at Shangri-La Productions, Lexington KY, mixed by Nielson Hubbard, and mastered by Demain at Yes Master, Nashville TN, Going Back to the Sky finds Morris in full command of his craft at once pushing complexity when demanded and embracing simplicity when necessary; all arrangements lift the songs to increasing levels of intimacy, slowly drawing the listener deeper into Morris’ psyche. Stellar performances by all involved makes the precision and nuance here sound effortless. The record features RB Morris (vocals, acoustic guitar), Bo Ramsey (electric guitars, background vocals), Greg Horne (pedal steel, fiddle, electric guitars, background vocals), Daniel Kimbro (bass), Hunter Deacon (drums), David Mansfield (mandolin, violin), and Mickey Raphael (harmonica).

“Prelude” places one in an open prairie from the first hints of harmonica and sparse acoustic guitar setting the stage for the record to follow. “Red Sky” follows with Morris twisting old rhymes into new meaning as he declares, “red sky at night, sailors, delight, red sky at morn, sailors take warning, I ain’t no sailor, but it’s going rain just the same.” As “Red Sky” continues Morris ponders a mix of wisdom and doubt dominate a life of traveling. A truck stop country groove carries “My and My Wife Ruth” and allows Ramsey’s guitar to step out on a few soulfully slinky lines peppered throughout. “Missouri River Hat Blowing Incident” embraces mystery and darkness via minor lope.

“Montana Moon” could be pulled from James McMurtry or Greg Brown’s slow talking songbooks, “the heater’s broke, my toes is froze, we’re running low on gas, talk about rambling, talk about gambling, talked about it all by now…made it this far somehow,” Morris drawls. A bit of whimsy enters the mix on “That’s the Way I Do” while carries the playfulness to insight with “Copper Penny” as he takes cue from Guy Clark making the mundane magical and the overlooked and undervalued priceless. With a deliver reminiscent of Randy Newman, Morris contemplates the nature of value and perspective as he sings, “I’m heads up, I’m happy, I’m ready to roll, I know I’m not silver, I know I’m not gold, but I’m good luck to whoever holds an old copper penny like me.” Mandolin and fiddle lines mimic the circuitous path of an old copper penny rolling across an uneven old wood floor while bass becomes foot stomps as someone chases down that penny. Other album highlights include, “Six Black Horses and a 72 Oz. Steak” with hints of Tom Waits and “Under the Cigar Trees” with its detour into mariachi.

Going Back to the Sky finds RB Morris continuing to perfect his craft as a master storyteller. “And sometimes I talk to the strangers, and sometimes I talk to myself, sometimes I find an old friend I thought at first it was somebody else,” Morris sings on album closer “Walking Song” almost as an invitation to sit and talk for a while longer. Pick up a copy of Going Back to the Sky and sit for a conversation with RB Morris; you’ll be glad you did.


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