R B Morris
Zeke and the Wheel
Knoxville, Tennessee is right on the cusp of the Smokies, and is, like much of that region, an area rich in artistic influences for those with the sensibilities to recognize the value of the local art forms. Knoxville native Morris saw the value, and his soul was fully nourished by the teat of bluegrass, the poetry of hometown-boy James Agee, and the rhythm and roll of the local Memphis-flavored band the Amazing Rhythm Aces. His later artistic diet was supplemented by the music of Bob Dylan, John Prine, and the San Francisco Beat Poetry scene, where he hung out with Jack Kerouac’s biographer for a period of time. Morris later worked as a poet, an editor of a Knoxville literary journal, a playwright, an actor, a bluegrass musician, and a rock and roll musician before making his move to Nashville.
Shortly after his arrival in Nashville, he established himself as a contender, earning the respect of some of Nashville’s finest songwriters and musicians, ultimately resulting in his getting signed to John Prine’s Oh-Boy record label. His debut release, Take That Ride , on the Oh-Boy label, earned critical accolades that extended beyond the genre of the alt-country niche that he seemed to fall in. This, his second release on his second label, should prove to the world that his is a musical force to be reckoned with. The breadth and cohesiveness of this album is simply amazing. Its sometimes atmospheric quality rivals Daniel Lanois’ production on Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball or the Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon . The feel and delivery at different times recalls Dylan, John Prine, and even the Rolling Stones in one of their more inspired and rocking moments. Morris is truly a sleeping giant.
The lyrics are purposely not included in the notes as a way of drawing you into the songs so that the interplay between the music and the lyrics can be fully appreciated. Listen close and it’ll make you think and want to know more. He drew me in and will made me want to pull out the Bible and read the book of Ezekial to try and understand some of the references. However, there are many references that you will not get from the Bible, and for some of them you’d really have to have grown up in a hillbilly Baptist environment where drinking alcohol is so frowned upon that the good church-goin’ people would offer an explanation of why Jesus turned water into wine with a line like…. “In those days they didn’t have no good drinkin water.” This is a line I haven’t heard in a very long time. After a dozen listens, I’m still getting something new with each listen. A positively excellent recording.
KOCH Records, 740 Broadway, New York, NY 10003, www.richmountainbound.com