Feelin' Euphoric

The Tennessee Theatre and local production company, Euphoric Productions Inc., are trying to bait all of those pesky Knoxvillians who can't understand cinema outside of the realm of still wanting to know what Jennifer Love Hewitt did last summer. And Exiting Left, a feature film whirlwind of Knoxville acting and producing talent, not to mention musical highlights of Knoxville artists R.B. Morris, Nancy Brennan Strange, and Claymation Quartet, is trying to light the way for all of those lost souls. Yes, I know, I know...Knoxville has legions of indie film supporters who hover well above the frayed theater chairs at the local multi-plex, waiting for a new cinematic wonder that challenges and uplifts the mind. Sometimes, however, Knoxville has a little trouble providing a satisfying selection to those who appreciate them (fade in stream of sentimental music in remembrance of the hallowed Terrace Theatre...). But on November 23, 8 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre, Euphoric will make us proud and maybe a little shocked by the potential of Knoxville's film scene.


"Smokin'" Dave Nichols made a rare Knoxville appearance Wednesday with the Jazz Liberation Quartet at Lucille's. Nichols, founder of the legendary and lamented Smokin' Dave and the Primo Dopes, is in town on a two-week hiatus from the Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey Circus band. Dopes' frontman Todd Steed gives a 70 percent chance of Nichols being on stage with Steed's new band Apelife this Saturday (Nov. 21) at the Long Branch.

Local CD Review
R.B. Morris
The Knoxville Sessions

Our own Jack Neely took a listen and provided this glowing review:

R.B. Morris warned us that his new record was "weird," and it is. He cut Knoxville Sessions as a follow-up to his 1990 local release Local Man—just before he was distracted by Nashville semi-stardom in '96 and '97 and his nationally hailed 1997 CD, Take That Ride. The new record overlaps Ride with slightly simpler versions of "They Say There's a Time" and "The World Owes Me." But Sessions is no historical document. In some ways it goes beyond his previous releases. It certainly takes more chances, several times stretching the boundaries of what we expect.

On this one CD are a couple of songs that may be more mainstream than anything else Morris has ever released—and several which are much less so. A half-dozen of these pieces would once have been called avant-garde—beat poetry accompanied by a bebop-influenced electric guitar, with effects from electronic manipulations to the sounds of pigeons flapping. The surprise may be that the music and presentation make them all repeatedly listenable. Most of the spoken-word pieces are short, spare, and vivid, and often very funny.

More than his other recordings, Sessions shows Morris as Actor. He takes on voices we've never heard, notably as the deep-voiced rockabilly crooner in "Toy Room." The incongruous treatment gives a heroic cast to a song that might otherwise sound like a schizophrenic's rage at his surroundings. It's so well done, we might wish it were longer than 1:27.

Another darkly comic piece opens "Yes; yes it is...." It portrays the short end of a frustrating telephone conversation, apparently with a former lover. Each attempt to explain some unstated transgression is interrupted by a voice we don't hear. It's tragic, familiar, and funny.

One poem, "They're making me into a bright baby doll" is done in two versions so different you hardly recognize it the second time it comes around; the first, in an angry, streetwise rap, is accompanied by guitar funk; the second, recited in hushed resignation, is a sad apology over what sounds like mad circus polka.

A couple of songs seem to reach more for a broad audience than we expect of a poet who's known for arcane images and allusions. One or two ballads are almost sentimental. "While the World Is Asleep" is a lovely melancholy ballad about an unexpected roadside stop on a snowy night; I hope R.B. won't mind us saying it could have worked well on a Dan Fogelberg record. It's not at all typical of Morris's work, but is very good for what it is, and hints there's more to R.B. Morris than even his loyal fans know.

One of the treats on this CD is the first good recording of what was once one of Morris's best-known songs: "Atlantic Avenue," describing a day in the life of a working-class neighborhood of North Knoxville. Reworked by guitar virtuoso Terry Hill, it's a heartbreaking piece, beautifully orchestrated with guitar and cinematic effects. This 20-year-old song sounds new.

The record closes with the previously unavailable "I Miss the Vol Market," a favorite in his live shows, especially among those who remember that rare Cumberland Avenue institution where "they got your pinball machines; they got your porno mags/They got your good ol' boys; they got your man in drag."

It's clear that Knoxville Sessions is well-named. The record was recorded at Knoxville's Southern Sound Studios, and backed by the Irregulars, is led by guitarists Hector Qirko and the rarely seen Terry Hill (who will also front the band at the album release party at the Laurel on Dec. 4). It may not be an "album" by habitual definitions—but whatever it is, it's guaranteed to surprise.

Week a la Zippy

Once more into the breech, dear readers.

Thursday: If you wonder what really happened in the '70s, check out the Kiss Army—a tribute to all that was Kiss—at Neon Nites.

Friday: Bird's Eye View, the new music salon in the Old City, has a songwriters night, featuring local talents like Matt Richardson, Richard Douglas, and Chris Brown.

Saturday: Theatre Central is celebrating its 10th birthday with Spooks, a show that promises to be a haunting good time.

Sunday: Blues on the River with Jenna and Strange Cargo on the Star of Knoxville.

Monday: Contra Dance (does that involve South American rebels?) with Donna McAllister and the Mumbillies.

Tuesday: Catch Scott Keen and Stephen Klesius' eclectic art show at The Tomato Head. It's yummier than a box of prismacolors.

Wednesday: Blue Jam at Sassy Ann's. You just never know who will show up...

—Zippy "Pre-Turkey-Day Lull" McDuff