Archive for the R.B. Morris Category

WDVX Fall Fund Drive

Posted in Greg Horne, R.B. Morris on October 22, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Today is the final day of the WDVX Fall Fund Drive, but there is still plenty of time to call or go online to support East Tennessee’s Own listener supported community radio station.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with WDVX… It is a locally owned, non-commercial, Americana radio station dedicated to keeping real radio and real music on the air.  I’d call it my favorite station even if I didn’t work there as a DJ on Wednesday and Friday nights.  You can listen on line at our website, wdvx.com.

For about a week and a half now, we’ve been taking to the airwaves to ask our listeners for financial support to keep the music going on WDVX.  As a non-commercial station, we rely on our listeners to provide funding to help keep us on the air.  We have these fund drives twice a year, and they routinely serve as the single largest funding source for the station.

The drives are a lot of hard work, but we also try to have fun on the air while these things are going on.  Lots of guests, volunteers, and artists are constantly stopping by to chat on the air and play some live music for our audience.  I had several artists share the air with me during this fund drive, and like to share a couple of performances from their visits with you here.

During this drive, I was visited by local Knoxville musicians Karen E. Reynolds, Mic Harrison, Greg Horne, and R.B. Morris.  Greg and R.B. brought their guitars along with them and were nice enough to share some songs with me that I’m now going to share with you.  This is what you’re missing by not tuning in and supporting WDVX.

Neither of these songs have an official studio release.  The Buy links point to the artists’ websites.

Greg Horne: Bury Me Beneath the Barstool (Buy Music)
R.B. Morris: Bardstown Road (Buy Music)

A Little Knox Music: Spies, Lies, & Burning Eyes by R.B. Morris

Posted in Knoxville Music, R.B. Morris on January 14, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

R.B. Morris is a singer/songwriter who has shared a stage with Lucinda Williams and had his songs recorded by John Prine.

R.B. Morris is a poet and author who has published multiple books and once served as the editor of the highly respected Hard Knoxville Review.
R.B. Morris is a playwright who once wrote and starred in his own one man show based on the life of Pulitzer Prize winning author (and Knoxville native) James Agee.
I once referred to Morris as a one man literary wrecking ball, and his skills with the written word in all of its myriad forms are showcased brilliantly on his new CD Spies, Lies, & Burning Eyes. On this album, Morris moves from Dylan style folk, to abstract spoken word pieces, to straightforward rock and roll bombast with ease… sometimes within the same song.
The album kicks off with the subdued travelogue “Amsterdam.” R.B. croons softly over faint accordions and guitar before transitioning into the funk fueled word art of “Big Wheel/Vowels” on the album’s second track. Here Morris references the works of french poet Arthur Rambaud as he muses on the colors represented by different vowels. Morris speaks rather than sings as his studio band, including longtime compatriot Hector Quirko and guitar maestro Kenny Vaughn provide a perfect canvas for his words.
It’s a formula he repeats on a few other tracks as well. The whole thing can be a bit jarring if you aren’t expecting it, but those who are familiar with Morris’ previous works and live shows have come to expect such departures. These Beat inspired pieces provide a backdrop for his poetry that a standard song structure simply can’t provide.
That’s not to say, however, that Morris can’t turn out a straight forward song when he tries. “Spy in My Brain” is a guitar rocker of the highest calibre that brings to mind some of Alejandro Escovedo’s heavier work. The fire is balanced nicely with the more restrained “That’s How Every Empire Falls” and “Then There is a City.” All three tracks (along with “Big Wheel/Vowels” and “Buddha in European Clothes”) also appeared on Morris’ 2007 EP Empire but have been re-recorded and given new life here. The album is wrapped up nicely with the Dylan-esque “Plato’s Perfect World” in which he wishes for a world where there was no need for poets to point out societal ills.
R.B. Morris is already a legendary figure in Knoxville and an artist Lucinda Williams once called the “greatest unknown songwriter in the country.” Maybe his new effort will help to remove the “unknown” tag from that title.
Here are two tracks from the new album… one song and one “other.”
R.B. Morris: Spy in My Brain (Buy Album)
R.B. Morris: Big Wheel/Vowels (Buy Album)

Random Notes for the Weekend

Posted in Jon Dee Graham, Knoxville Music, R.B. Morris on January 11, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

* This illustration of Over the Rhine comes from a new book called An Indie Rock Alphabet Book. Think of it as a five-year-old’s introduction to Neutral Milk Hotel and Iron and Wine. The book features stylized illustrations of indie artists with two lines of rhyming verse that describe each act. Take Gillian Welch for example…

Though Gillian Welch was raised in L.A.,
Her Songs are rooted in the Appalachian Clay.

An Indie Rock Alphabet Book is the first book published by the good people at Paste Magazine. You can get one for the young Yo La Tengo fan in your family at the Paste Store.

* Remember a few months ago when I told you about Austin, TX artist Jon Dee Graham and how he was severely injured in a car accident?

The good news is that he got better. The bad news is that he was hospitalized again in December with more broken bones and internal injuries after he fell off of a ladder installing Christmas lights at his home. More good news… He got better again, and is about to embark on a European tour with James McMurtry.

Somehow, through all of this, Graham still found time to record a new album with Austin club legends, The Resentments. The album comes out January 20th, but songs: illinois has been given a bit of a sneek preview.

* I finally got my first taste of The Square Room on Friday when R.B. Morris performed there on The Blue Plate Special. The Square Room is Knoxville’s newest listening room that opened a few weeks ago. Now, all Friday Blue Plates (WDVX’s live, free, lunchtime concert series) will be held at The Square Room with Monday – Thursday shows remaining at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center. You can listen to the Blue Plate live every weekday at WDVX’s website.

Anyway… The Square Room is a very nice space and a great spot for a mid-day gathering in downtown Knoxville. The room itself is big and open with good sound and plenty of clear sightlines to the stage. R.B. Morris was a great artist for my first visit to the venue as well. He played. He sang. He told stories. He read poetry… the whole Renaissance bit really.

I’ve mentioned R.B. here before, and I urge you again to go check him out. The song I’m sharing today is called “Empire,” and is the title track from R.B.’s most recent EP. John Prine recently released a cover of this song on an iTunes only EP of outtakes from the Fair and Square sessions. John Prine is one of the greatest songwriters to ever walk the planet… and he’s covering R.B. Morris? That should tell you something.

R.B. Morris: Empire (Buy Album)

More notes and links and stuff

Posted in Knoxville Music, R.B. Morris, R.E.M., Scott Miller, Todd Steed on December 17, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Some more links and notes for another rainy day in Knoxville…

* Above is a picture of Knoxville’s Market Square. In days past, it was one of the central gathering places in the city and a major center of trade and commerce. Lately, it’s heading in that direction again. The Square is one of my favorite places in the city due to its interesting shops and tremendous food options. I think my perfect day in Knoxville might just include breakfast at The Market Square Kitchen, brunch at La Costa, grabbing a small lunch from a street vendor or some healthy snacks from the Market Square Farmers’ Market, a drink before dinner at the Preservation Pub, followed by dinner at The Tomato Head, and a tasty frozen treat from Rita’s Ice for dessert.

Well… now there’s a new spot in Market Square that has me excited to see some great live music here in town. The Square Room, Knoxville’s newest listening room, opened this month and has already created quite a buzz. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but I hope to do so soon, as all reviews I’ve seen have been stellar. There’s also a new restaurant called Cafe 4 attached to the venue that has my taste buds quite curious as well.

Tonight at The Square Room, Knoxville luminaries R.B. Morris, Todd Steed, and Scott Miller take the stage together for what promises to be a tremendous acoustic show. I won’t be able to attend because, I’m on the air tonight at WDVX from 6-10, but there are tenuous plans to broadcast at least part of the show live on the air. I’m hoping that happens because this is one show I don’t want to miss.

* On a related note, I got my pre-order copy of Scott Miller’s new CD For Crying Out Loud in the mail this week. Today is the last day to order it from his website and guarantee Christmas delivery. If you don’t get one from this first batch that’s being offered now… you’ll have to wait for the official release in March. I’ll talk more about the album later as it gets closer to the official date, but take my word that Scott Miller fans should order and enjoy this album.

* It’s getting close to the end of the year, and I know it’s time to put out my year end lists. I actually started doing that a few weeks ago with the Top 5 Guilty Pleasures, but I kind of lost my motivation when that post got deleted. Don’t worry though, I am working on my Top 10 albums of the year and hope to start posting those soon. My wife and I have also just finished our “Best of 2008 Mix” (with fairly extensive liner notes) that we will be handing out to some friends and family for the holidays. I’ve been pretty busy.

In the meantime, Payton at This Mornin’ I am Born Again has posted his Top 10 songs of ’08, and it is a pretty solid list. It’s what I’m listening to as I write this. I think I’m finally starting to come around on Bon Iver.


* Finally, today is the 50th birthday of my favorite member of R.E.M., bassist Mike Mills. Mills’ harmony vocals are the ones I sing along with when I listen to my classic R.E.M. albums. He is also responsible for writing one of my favorite R.E.M. tunes… “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.”

Here we have that song from 1984’s Reckoning and two more that feature heavy vocal contributions from Mills. “Fall on Me” is from 1986’s Life’s Rich Pageant and features Mills heavily in the chorus, in the bridge, and on an almost hidden shared lead vocal in the second verse. “Texarkana” from 1991’s Out of Time is one of two tracks from that album to feature Mills on lead vocal.

Happy Birthday Mike Mills.

R.E.M. – (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville (Buy Album)
R.E.M. – Fall on Me (Buy Album)
R.E.M. – Texarkana (Buy Album)

Friday Top 5: East Tennessee’s Own

Posted in Brendon James Wright, Knoxville Music, R.B. Morris, Robinella, Scott Miller, the everybodyfields, Top 5 on November 21, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Here at WDVX, we have a tagline that we add to most of our station ID’s and promo announcements. That tagline is “East Tennessee’s Own,” as in… “This is East Tennessee’s Own, WDVX.”

We use it a lot. It’s on our website. It’s on our t-shirts. It’s on our posters. It’s said roughly 2,147 times a day on the air. It’s a sort of branding that we use to distinguish ourselves from other stations and tell our listeners who we are and what we care about in three words or less.

It’s also a bit of a mission statement. Here in Knoxville, and East Tennessee, there is a thriving local music scene, and many of those local artists receive airplay on the station. Whether their CDs are in regular rotation or they pop up from time to time on one of our specialty shows or the Blue Plate Special (our daily live concert series)… local artists make up a large part of what we play.

It’s with that in mind that I bring you today’s Top 5… East Tennessee’s Own: My five favorite Knoxville artists.

Of course, anyone who’s read this blog for any time knows that I have to start with one of my favorite artists from any city, and the patron saint of A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz… Scott Miller. Scott is a Virginian by birth, but a Knoxvillian by choice. He’s lived here for the better part of the last two decades and claims Knoxville as his adopted home. Knoxville now claims him too. He brings a crowd anywhere he plays, and his annual New Year’s Eve shows are the stuff of legends.

I’ve written about Scott Miller several times in this space, and I will surely write more in the months ahead as Scott prepares to release his next studio album. The recording process is completed, and Scott says fans who bought one of his self-released Appalachian Refugee demo CD’s should have the chance to buy the new album before the end of the year.

Scott’s song, “I Made a Mess of This Town,” is the song this site took its name from, and you can hear the studio version by clicking the link to the right of the screen in the “About Me…” sidebar. A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to interview Scott on the air here at WDVX when he was promoting the demos album and an upcoming show at The Bijou Theatre. He played “I Made a Mess of This Town” that day in the studio along with some other music that I’ve promised not to share until the new studio album is released. Here is that solo, acoustic version of this blog’s title track along with some of Scott’s candid thoughts about the city of Knoxville. The “Buy Album” link for this track points to Scott’s online merch store.

Scott Miller: I Made a Mess of This Town (Buy Album)

Any post about Knoxville’s music scene would be incomplete without a mention of our city’s unofficial poet laureate, R.B. Morris. Morris is one of Knoxville’s best kept secrets and an artist who Lucinda Williams once called the “greatest unknown songwriter in the country.” On top of his songwriting talents, Morris is also an author, poet, and playwright… a one man literary wrecking ball.

Recently, Morris served as an writer in residence at The University of Tennessee. As part of the gig, writers in residence are asked to host monthly discussions with local and national poets and authors so students and aspiring writers can get the chance to pick the brains of established professionals and get a better handle of their future trades. Morris brought in the typical array of published authors, but he also brought in songwriters like Steve Earle and Scott Miller to share their secrets. Morris believes that a well written song can be just as moving as any piece of prose, and it shows in his well crafted narratives. This song is from R.B.’s recent E.P., Empire.

R.B. Morris: City (Buy Album)

I first became aware of Jill Andrews and Sam Quinn, the songwriting duo behind the everybodyfields, a few years ago when I was still working at Morehead State Public Radio. Jill’s father had just become president of the university and was touring the campus to meet some of the students and staff. He asked me if I had ever heard of his daughter and this new bluegrass band she was playing in. I hadn’t. A few weeks later, a copy of their debut album Halfway There: Electricity and the South arrived at the station.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much the first time I listened to the album. Dr. Andrews had described them as bluegrass, and I thought this would just be another generic bluegrass album. I was a little off base to say the least. The sound that came out of the speakers was a beautiful melancholy with soaring bluegrass harmonies and a strong indie-folk aesthetic that immediately caught my attention. This was not “just another bluegrass band.”

The everybodyfields moved to Knoxville from Johnson City, TN last year and have become a strong presence in the local music community. In fact, they just played a show last night at the Bijou Theatre. The track I’m offering here is from their debut album. It was the winner of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest in 2005.

the everybodyfields: T.V.A. (Buy Album)

Robinella is another local musical treasure who has been a fixture in Knoxville since her days as a student at The University of Tennessee. In 1997, Robinella co-founded a band called The Stringbeans along with fellow UT students Cruz Contreras and Jay Clark (Jay would be on this list himself, but he moved back to Alabama last year… he’ll probably pop up here soon). The group garnered some attention in and around town for the way they melded jazz, pop, country, and blues into a framework that relied heavily on bluegrass.

In 1999 the band’s lineup shifted, and The Stringbeans became Robinella and the CC Stringband. They released a couple of independent albums before catching the attention of Columbia Records in 2002. The group released an acclaimed self-titled album with Columbia in 2003. The follow up album (now billed simply as Robinella… but still featuring the band) Solace for the Lonely was released on Dualtone in 2006.

Sadly, Robinella no longer plays with the CC Stringband, but Cruz and the band can be found playing all over town. Cruz himself is one of the most sought after sidemen and session players in the region. Robinella can still be found every Sunday night at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria in Knoxville’s Old City. Her Sunday night set has been the way to close out the Knoxville weekends for several years now. Here’s a track from Solace for the Lonely.

Robinella: Down the Mountain (Buy Album)

Brendon James Wright is a relative newcomer compared to some of the other names on this list, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying his self titled debut album with his band The Wrongs. I first heard Brendon’s music a few months ago as I was driving home from the radio station after my Wednesday night shift. I always listen to The Writer’s Block (a show here on WDVX that is dedicated to independent singer-songwriters) in the car on my way home, and on this particular night I heard a song called “This Old Town” from Brendon James Wright and The Wrongs.

The song was about a place called Pikeville, a relatively small mining town in Eastern Kentucky not far from my hometown of Paintsville. Brendon’s song perfectly captured some of the things I felt growing up in a town just like Pikeville. These Appalachian towns are full of hard working, God fearing people… coal mines and mud… and not much else. These are places where opportunities are sometimes few and you have to do what you can to get by. They are the types of places you’re proud to come from, but you know you have to leave even if a little part of you always wants to go back.

After hearing that song for the first time, I made it a point to find Brendon’s album and give the rest of it a listen. I was not disappointed. I got to hang out with Brendon earlier this week when he sat in as a studio guest for The Writer’s Block, and I was a bit surprised to learn that he didn’t grow up in Eastern Kentucky. He was born and bred in Knoxville and wrote “This Old Town” for a college buddy who had grown up Pikeville. The fact that Brendon could write a song that spoke to me as strongly as it did when he hadn’t even experienced what he was writing about should speak to his skills as a songwriter. Here is “This Old Town” from Brendon James Wright and The Wrongs.

Brendon James Wright and The Wrongs: This Old Town (Buy Album)

If you liked all of that… just remember that this is only a small sampling of Knoxville’s musical roster. I didn’t even mention Karen E. Reynolds, Hector Quirko, Medford’s Black Record Collection, Wade Hill, Alex Leach, Robert Lovett, The Maid Rite String Band, The Bearded, Mic Harrison, Christabel and the Johns, Brent Thompson’s Wandering Circus, or any number of other Knoxville artists.

Maybe another day…