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R.B. Morris

Genre: Americana, country, rock

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R.B. Morris

There’s a hillbilly impertinence about R.B. Morris' work, frayed with a decadent melancholy of a sort that lives on this side of the Cumberlands. His lyrics are provocative and memorable, his tunes are solid, his voice works, aging into an easy baritone with just enough rasp to make it sound lived in. And 20 years of performing before live—and often drunk—audiences have left him with a confidence about taking weird chances with music—and an instinct for taking the right ones.

He emerged in Fort Sanders, leading a blues/country band called Shaky Little Finger. In the early ’80s, Morris did some traveling, geographically and spiritually. He grew fascinated with words, and for half a decade, Morris concentrated on poetry without accompaniment, putting his guitar aside to produce a nonpareil tabloid arts journal called The Hard Knoxville Review. He also wrought an unlikely miracle in organizing some lively and even popular poetry readings.

All of his efforts were impressively unique. But somewhere in there, someone talked R. B. into doing what he does best—that is, writing and singing songs.

He holed up and worked up a new act, new songs, and returned to the stage, often backed by the Irregulars—a.k.a. Hector Qirko’s blues band. Morris’s unpredictable shows combine poetry-as-performance-art with original songs that ranged from pure country to pure blues, which are, of course, roughly the same thing. Curves thrown just to keep us slack-jawed were occasional operatic pieces, breezy reggae, and punk-influenced rock ’n’ roll. The sum offers a strong impression of a man who has wrestled with angels and learned how to deal with being pinned. (Jack Neely)

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