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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.
from the album “Love Wounds & Mars”
Mista Boo Music 2012
edited by Paul Curreri, with footage shot by Paul Curreri. Special thanks to Jason and Vanessa Lively.
band footage shot by Jacob Canon
‘“Love Wounds & Mars”
When I first put ‘Love Wounds & Mars’ on I was instantly transported back to smoky nights at Toronto’s Cameron House listening to The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir or Glen Stace or John Bottomley playing their loosely knit acid Folk music with friends of friends of friends in colliding acoustic driven symphonic cacophonies. But when I looked at the package I saw that Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers were from Charlottesville, Virginia. Had the same Appalachian musical migration that turned Ontario’s The Band into 1970s Americana icons done the same for Cameron House alt-Folk two decades later in the Southeastern USA? Unlikely, because Keith & Co. do what they do a lot better. The edges are refined and the melodies are pronounced – hell, there’s even harmony vocals on many of the tunes. The stand out tracks come when the six-piece are in lock step. The Blue Rodeo-like tunes “Nowhere Road”
and “Colorado” (with its Neil Diamond “Solitary Man” melody) are uplifting toe tappers. The ensemble is augmented with pedal steel and harmonica on the anthemic “Leora Brown”. And they drive a southern Mexi-Cali Jimmy Buffett summer ditty like “Bordertown” with accordions. The group is also diverse enough in their eclectic sound to bring on a treacle-less melancholy. Jen Morris takes lead vocal duties on the beautiful “Peaceful When You Sleep” and the haunting Dylanesque “Like a Haze” (the best track on the disc http://youtu.be/FC8REACjVTs ) allows Morris to show an uncharacteristically sombre, emotive depth to his vocals. If Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers can’t be Canadian I’m happy that they can play Canadian – better than many Canadian acts in the same style. I’d love to see them on a double bill with Blackie & The Rodeo Kings or The New Pornographers. The band doesn’t include their URL on the CD so here it is: http://www.keith-morris.com’
Saturday, December 5th 2015
Saturday, December 19th 2015
- 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
- Alternative Airwaves review of Love Wounds & Mars
- WTJU Radio Interview about “love wounds & mars”