R.B. Morris – Going Back to the Sky
RB Morris seems to cover a wide gamut of endeavors. Poetry, playwright, solo work, & bandleader. He’s performed in many genres: rock, swampy folk, high lonesome bluegrass & lounge jazz.
Like Leonard Cohen, he sculptures lyrics into tales & chooses words carefully. It makes his music interesting. His voice is a less gruff Buddy Miller but has a distinct style like Jon Dee Graham, Otis Taylor, Steve Earle, Tony Joe White (as depicted beautifully on “Montana Moon”).
With his new 14-cut dusty old highway LP Going Back to the Sky, (available Aug. 14 – Singular Records) RB creates a journal of songs about people from his journeys. These songs have merit. Not repetitious, sweetened with clichés but real-life tales that unfold like a good drama. Not everyone writes this sharply. You first need to be a good storyteller. Morris is.
RB seems to siphon influences into his own distinct vocal style. I hear some Roger Miller in “That’s the Way I Do,” because it has just the right amount of humor without sinking into novelty.
What makes Morris an easy listen is that he has something to say with the ability to wear many hats in each song. In an old Leon Redbone 1930’s style is “Copper Penny.” Though it won’t race up the charts it contributes to maintaining an old tradition for newly curious ears. We eat pancakes but trying a johnny-cake can be exciting. That’s what this song supplies – that early sweet sound without syrup.
RB has splendor with his ballad voice. Evident on “Once in a Blue Moon.” Pure sincerity. Unlike many, he sings a country-inflected tune with Nat King Cole nuances. Nat would’ve done this song – no doubt. Creativity impresses me most & “Six Black Horses & a 72 Oz. Steak” meets the bill. This is wonderful. Slinky, swampy in a Bobbie Gentry way, sung brawny, rhythmic & potent.
Spanish-flavored “Under the Cigar Trees,” with a Warren Byram trumpet skims the rim of novelty but not as much as Pat Boone’s great “Speedy Gonzales” did. A fun tune & RB tells it in a humid way. Every LP needs humor to dilute the harder stuff.
RB’s a mature writer & not a country-pop inspired chart focused artist. Other singers probably will mine some of RB’s work — he does what many good singers can’t. Write fortified tales that have purity of lyric. Nothing is angry or dark. RB makes little bells in the memory tick off. If you’re inclined to travel & meet interesting people RB’s songs will comfortably integrate into your world.
The imaginative performances: Bo Ramsey (electric guitars/backing vocals); Greg Horne (pedal steel guitar/fiddle/guitars/backing vocals); Daniel Kimbro (bass); Hunter Deacon (drums); David Mansfield (mandolin/violin) & Mickey Raphael (harmonica).
Recorded in Lexington, Kentucky the CD has a stitched color lyric sheet. The 45-minute CD — produced by Bo Ramsey & R.B. Morris. Available at https://www.rbmorris.com/