R. B. Morris is a poet who writes emotionally intense songs full of ideas and unexpected word-play and sings them in arrangements that emphasize the rhythmic interchange between words and music. There's enough country in these songs to recall literate writers like Kris Kristofferson and Guy Clark, but there's enough roots rock and blues in the music to make you think twice before saying singer-songwriter.
Morris has spent most of his life in Knoxville and in the mountains of East Tennessee. He grew up on old-time music rock and roll, but an older brother pointed him to other influences -- Southern writers, the novels of Joyce, Arthur Rimbaud and the music of Dylan. He played his way through the clubs and honky tonks of the mountains, first with bands with old time fiddlers and then later with groups that rocked. He traveled the U. S., Canada, Mexico and Europe, then back up into the Appalachians, where he lived for a year in near seclusion in a primitive cabin.
Later on the road to the West to San Francisco -- the patron city of the Beats -- he moved in the circles that surrounded poet Gregory Corso and made friends with Kerouac biographer Gerry Nicosia. Back in Knoxville, Morris focused on writing and performing his poetry. He edited a literary magazine, Hard Knoxville Review, which attracted a cult following that included the avant-garde in this country and in Europe. He also wrote a one-man play, The Man Who Lives Here Is Loony, about the turbulent life of writer James Agee, who grew up in Knoxville. Later, Morris played Agee in a video version of the play.
When he returned to playing music with bands, Morris mixed his poetry-as-performance-art with original songs to create provocative and unpredictable shows. For the last two years, he has been playing his music in Nashville, where he quickly developed a strong following among some of the more innovative writers and singers, including Lucinda Williams, John Prine and Steve Earle, as well as the music press.
Morris' songs reflect a range of musical styles: pop, blues, country, gospel and improvisation with spoken word. What holds them together and gives them their signature is a provocative wit and a sense of melancholy which dance in rhythmic word play that turns these contrary tendencies into the best of friends.
On "Take That Ride", Morris' first CD on Oh Boy Records, he is backed by Kenny Vaughan on guitar, Dave Jacques on bass, Paul Griffith on drums and Carmella Ramsey on fiddle and background vocals. The CD features guest appearances by John Prine, Lucinda Williams and Al Kooper. It was produced by R. S. Field, whose credits include CDs by Billy Joe Shaver, Webb Wilder, John Mayall and Sonny Landreth