(68 points, one first-place vote; see the complete list)
When I moved to Knoxville in the late 1990s, R.B. Morris played out so much that it was hard to avoid seeing him. The songs got into my head. Like all of my favorite music, I kept coming back to his songs, and to him. Then I started to seek his shows out whenever I could, and was always blown away, caught up in his wonderful spirit. Later, I got to know him a little bit and became intoxicated with his ramblings, sober or drunken: He always seemed to be performing, but I enjoyed the show.
One night I got drunk with him and recorded every word he said for a piece I wanted to write for a now-defunct webzine. Slowly he became not just one of my favorite musicians, but also one of my idols—someone who has managed to do some amazing things with very little compensation, sacrificing comfort for art and belief, eagerly biting the hand that fed him the scraps he somehow subsisted on. A few years ago, when I lived abroad, I found myself compelled to choose between principles and self-interest. Mulling over my dilemma one night, R.B.’s song “Take That Ride” cued up on random in iTunes and these lines jumped out at me: “There’s fights that you don’t take/And there’s nights when you break and you run/Just do what you can do/And answer to who you have to when you’re done.” And I know this sounds really corny, but R.B. became my patron saint that night and those words steered me closer to the person I want to be. Thanks, R.B.
Whether he’s performing a sedate acoustic number in someone’s parlor or ranting at injustice and stupidity from Pilot Light with Hector Qirko by his side, R.B. always has something to say. What always intrigues me is that he never seems to be satisfied with his words. Even though everyone else recognizes their brilliance, R.B. is his own harshest critic, and I think that keeps him reaching for greater heights.
Amazingly, R.B. just keeps getting better.