Touted as New England’s answer to the last and best of the South’s white country-blues men, Hank Williams, Morrissey is more recognizably a folksinger, albeit one whose musical roots ramble down some mighty lost and lonesome roads.
With three previous albums, this 40-year-old Connecticut native now living in New Hampshire has cultivated a cult following among the literary set—writers Jay McInerney and Richard Ford and their editor, Gary Fisketjon, for instance—who praise his proudly acoustic songs for their complex narratives and savor Morrissey’s quietly husky delivery.
On his new disc, Morrissey adds more top-notch material to his already impressive songbook. There is a new playfulness in some of the tracks—notably “Chameleon Blues” about a woman who changes “with every new boyfriend.” Sings Morrissey: “When you dated the police chief/I know you packed a gun/ There was that scuba diver and/ You look so great in fins.”
But most of the songs build brooding scenarios of love in twilight and lives on hold. One of the best is “Inside,” which Morrissey performs as a duet with Suzanne Vega, about a couple living in a “furnished room” in a town where “There’s no work/ Just a lot of talk.” While this is a terrific batch of tunes from one of the sharpest, most introspective songwriters in the business, credit also must go to the exceptional backup musicians and vocalists. Foremost is violinist Johnny Cunningham of the Raindogs, whose lively Celtic licks grace a number of tunes. Pianist Tom McClung, organist Ron Levy and drummer Doug Plavin also contribute substantially to the album’s moody energy. Morrissey is a unique talent. The truths he unearths aren’t often pretty, but the way he tells them can take your breath away. (Philo/Rounder)