LOCAL MAN DOES GOOD (AND THEN SOME)
We've taken the Local Man for granted for the 25 years or so that he's been singing his songs in Knoxville bars, publishing local arts papers, making a James Agee docudrama for film, and doing a little carpentry on the side, but R.B. Morris belongs to the nation now.
His wino ballad "Roy" appears on the latest compilation by highly regarded Chicago "insurgent country" indie label Bloodshot Records. The Other Side of The Alley, a collection of well-known Nashville (sic) musicians, including the Scorchers, Greg Garing, and Dan Baird along with Morris, is fresh out at the Disc Exchange. He just completed a successful high-profile tour of the midwest with legendary postman-turned-songwriter John Prine, and the long-anticipated, long-deserved record deal rumored for the last five years is imminent, believe us.
Morris will reportedly be in the studio with Nashville producer R.S. Field to make an all-Morris CD for national release in September, though his (nationally prominent) record label remains undisclosed. Since signing a publishing deal with Nashville's Tom Collins back in February, Morris has already been making a living purely as a songwriter.
Reviewing the sold-out Prine-Morris show at the Navy Pier in the Windy City two weeks ago, the daily Chicago Sun-Times devoted more than a third of the review to Morris alone, describing the Local Man thus: "Nashville-by-way-of-Knoxville songwriter R.B. Morris was a superb opening act... There's a Nashville buzz about Morris, as fans like Prine, Lucinda Williams, and Steve Earle search out his shows. Morris applies an intense Beat Generation lyricism to hillbilly music, which he revealed Tuesday in a new tune, 'Ol' Copper Penny,' that was inspired by the late, great Dean Martin...." (We've heard the comparisons to Tom Waits, Lyle Lovett, and even Freddy Fender, but that's a new one on us.)
"Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar," the review continues, "Morris also covered some chestnuts that ranged from a real country-music workout of Robert Mitchum's 'Thunder Road' to Tom T. Hall's 'Don't Forget the Coffee, Billy Joe,' which will appear on an upcoming Hall tribute album."
Despite all the "Nashville buzz," by the way, R.B. Morris still lives in a North Knoxville apartment. He remains as Knoxvillian as most of his songs.
HOP TO IT
Bullfrog's is gonna give it one more go... though, this time, former employees Tracy Wright and Keith Robinson are re-opening the Old City reggae bar as The Frog Pad. "Same location, same employees, same music," Wright says of the club, which she hopes will be open for business Thurs., Aug. 29, pending beer board and health inspections. Looks like the songs remain the same, too. Tuesday is still alternative night, Thursday will probably still feature blues (though Slow Blind Hill most likely won't play every week), and Friday and Saturday are still dominated by reggaeMystic Meditations kick things off on Aug. 30 and 31. Wright also hopes to add a night of bluegrass, possibly on Wed-nesdays. Look for interior improvements in the coming months, including the possibility of a light lunch menu and an expanded back patio.
NEW ON THE 'ZINE SCENE
Eager to fill the gap left when Entelechy moved to Austin, Texas, is Rust & Tourette's, a literary 'zine that editors Deanna Bowman and Casey Wooden hope to publish monthly beginning in November. Bowman describes the 'zine as "an unconventional forum for otherwise unpublishable" scribblings. Send your best short stories, poems, essays, print art (preferably pen and ink), novel exceprts, articles and black-and-white photos to Rust & Tourette's, 1100 Clinch Ave., Apt. #6, 37916.
TAPE O' THE MONTH
Piling together a disparate and eclectic bill of local music, the latest live, in-studio compilation from WUTK-FM's weekly show Tennessee Tracks is a well-rounded listen. The only hitch? At last count, four of the featured bands (The Tuffskins, Family Jewels, HyperTribe and Stinkfoot U.S.A.) were M.I.A. The others, however, including Evan's Dilemma, Thumbnail, Dean Moriarty and Dynamo Humm, offer unshakable evidence at just how healthy and vital our scene is right now. You can just about hear the studio's egg-crate walls quaking in the midst of The Scenesters ("Sweet Baby Flower") and Numskull's ("G.D.S.") power chord overdrive, while Torture Kitty's "Bulldogger" pogos in on a frayed nerve of hyperactive pop punk. Superdrag turns in a true-fan version of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down;" the State Champs do their best goof-rock shtick with crowd pleaser "My Snowflake Has Melted;" Leaf pays homage to their power pop idols with "The Star;" and noise denizens Atom Bomb Pocketknife flex their indie rock muscle on the dark and moody "Robin vs. The Blue Collar Villain." The stand-outs, though, are a pair of songs by a couple of dark horses: Smokebomb's anthemic "You Got It Comin'" is an explosive burst of kinetic energy that builds from a laid-back slacker bounce-a-long to a lusty roar; and Ragazzi's "Details," in its Spinanes-inspired way, is a slice of sheer singer/songwriter beauty. Pick it up at a Disc Exchange near you.
Zippy "Fickle-Doodle-Doo" McDuff