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Keith Morris is back, and his sound’s a good deal bigger this time, right from the first cut’s kick-in (“Psychopaths & Sycophants”), much mindful of the Move’s “Feel Too Good”, Manfred Mann’s take on Dylan’s “Get Your Rocks Off”, and Happy Monday’s rave-up on John Kongos’ “Tokoloshe Man” (if’n yew, pilgrim, ain’t heard them thar brain-burning toonz, then yer waaaay behind!), pregnant with a groove so insistent it puts a new unholy lurch in the brontosaurus stomp.
That doesn’t mean he’s lost an ounce of that Lawsiana back porch soul, though, as “Pale Moon Rising” well evidences. The titles alone tell ya whatcher in fer: “Dopesick Blues”, “Prejudiced & Blind”, “Devil’s Stew”, etc., a potpourri of Woodstock Nation cynicism, cheek, ‘n down and dirty honesty. Then there’s the righteously wailing choir quartet and tear-the-frets off musicians, who do their damned level best to put the stink on the stank on the stunk, wallowing in gutbucket rock ‘n roll that’ll have ya starry-eyed and yellin’. Yep, ‘rock’ is most assuredly a lapidarian term and thus fits this rough ‘n cool bitchin’ lil’ ol’ gem to a ‘T’. Have a fifth of something potent to hand when you tear the shrink-wrap off and toss the disc in the player. –Mark S. Tucker, FAME
“One of my top album picks of the year…. Morris is a monster of a songwriter…. Who else could put together an album so personal and yet so universal?”
“The band members and the choir–four voices dipped in sugar and honey in just the right proportions–are talented, but as a band their talents become immense.”
Check out the whole review at No Depression.
Dirty Gospel Review: “It’s difficult focusing on specific tracks because the entire album is a solid soul flogging from beginning to end.”
“Keith Morris & Company are back with another installation of their rock and gospel-oriented Americana. There’s hell-and-hallelujahs and swamp rock grit all over this puppy. While the March-break College kids are puking in the back alleys of the French Quarter in Nawlins during Mardi Gras, Keith & Co. are holding court in the backrooms of some smoke and whiskey drenched speakeasy between Bourbon and Royal Streets laying down the 10 Commandments of Hard Luck Town. It’s difficult focusing on specific tracks because the entire album is a solid soul flogging from beginning to end. If you like your Tom Waits more groovy, if you like your Dylan less obtuse and if you like your Tom Petty without Jeff-fucking-Lynne, this is the record for you. Stand out tracks are the almost Henley-like cynical bite of “Psychopaths & Sycophants”, the “Rockin’ In The Free World” melodic drive of “Prejudiced and Blind” and the ascendant artistry of ballads like “Devil’s Stew” and “Chipper Jones”. Excuse me, I need to go to confessional and erase my sins with Holy Water & Jack Daniels…and I’m an atheist non-drinker!”
“Keith and I have been acquaintances for a few years now. I always thought I knew where he was going but he has caught me completely off-guard with The Dirty Gospel. Full band, full sound, full-on power— not just a step but a few steps forward for him. And his band. This is the first album which allows The Crooked Numbers to really shine…”
Full preview can be read here.
Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers, Love Wounds & Mars
My first and strongest impression of this album is that it rocks—for better and worse. Sometimes it leans hard into Southern stadium rock, Dylan (“Nowhere Road”), Pink Floyd (“Mexico”), and Dire Straits (“Don’t Look Down”). The vocal phrasing and the feedbacky high lead guitar wails permeate some of the songs with hard-to-ignore nostalgia.
Still, what’s most salient and consistent about the sound of the album is what a well-seasoned band sound it has. The instruments and vocals lean against one another like old friends on a couch—at times you lose track of whether you’re listening to organ, fiddle, or pedal steel, for instance, yet the production never feels overdone. The party is just crowded enough.
A few of the high points for me: “Nowhere Road” with its appropriately driving feel—the background vocals and instruments move with the momentum of a train—and the haunting image of “a drowning man / just clutching onto a razor blade.” “Blind Man” has for its tragic central trope a guy who can’t see but can’t stop watching. The wry political wink at the end (“drill baby drill”) makes the song add up to a rollicking lament for runaway capitalism.
I have to agree with the reviewer who called “Like a Haze” the strongest cut on the album, yet it’s hard to pin down exactly why. The melody is as loose as the referentiality of the lyrics, draped over the very definite atmospherics of the accompaniment. The song is almost without hooks, in the conventional sense; instead, it is a hook, holistically. It wears its ambiguity on its sleeve, and it earns it. “Take a few of those back”—a few whats? But this approach doesn’t come off coy so much as coherent with the swampedness of the relationship depicted here: the singer is similarly out of his depth with his beloved and with language, and the parallel works.
I’m also fond of “Diamond Mask” – the non-sequitur progressions and the near-synesthesia of the imagery (“I need to hear a railroad song / straight for two miles long”) fall perfectly in line with the song’s footloose content.
Love Wounds & Mars brings us striking new American designs. The characters feel unique and authentic. The characters feel unique and authentic. They’re fresh inhabitants of a world we know—not old, but definitely not foreign to our ears. Still better, Morris’s lyrics here (as on Songs from Candyapolis) love the incidental poetry of language uttered before it quite coalesces into literal meaning: “high-water booty from Knoxville,” “watch the hickory as it seeps,” “the third ring of coincidence,” “I come from many sins in the west.” The result is a fetching, benign vertigo—we find ourselves on just the other side of clear. The right side.
Brady Earnhart.com .
Review of album can be read here at Alternative Airways.
Keith Morris joins Peter Jones on WTJU Folk and Beyond to discuss songwriting, his new album “love wounds & mars,” and to play some tracks off the album.
Diamond Mask, from the album “love wounds & mars”
Mista Boo Music 2012
Video by Bottle Tree Films
Written by Chris Culhane, with additional lyrics by Keith Morris.
Friday, May 6th 2016
Pro Re Nata Brewery
- The Dirty Gospel review, Mark S Tucker, FAME
- No Depression reviews The Dirty Gospel
- Dirty Gospel Review: “It’s difficult focusing on specific tracks because the entire album is a solid soul flogging from beginning to end.”
- First press for The Dirty Gospel
- Songwriter Brady Earnhart reviews Love Wounds & Mars