American singer-songwriter and musician RB Morris has just released a new album. It’s titled Going Back To The Sky. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.
According to his official website and other sources, RB Morris is a jack of all trades from Knoxville, Tennessee. He’s “a poet and songwriter, solo performer and bandleader.” He is also “a sometimes playwright and actor.”
Additionally, Morris is in the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. He has published three books of poetry. He also wrote and acted in his own one-man play, The Man Who Lives Here Is Looney, which is based on the life and work of James Agee. From 2004 through 2008 he was the Jack E. Reese Writer-in-Residence at The University of Tennessee. More importantly, his rockin’ resume also includes several previous platters including Spies Lies and Burning Eyes, his most recent solo work Rich Mountain Bound.
RB Morris’ signature sound is a mix of multiple music genres including Americana, “high lonesome bluegrass”, “swampy folk”, “lounge jazz”, and “chugging rock.”
Going Back To The Sky
The disc includes 14 tracks. Here Morris leads the way on acoustic guitar and vocals. He is backed by other artists including co-producer Bo Ramsey (electric guitar and background vocals), Greg Horne (fiddle, pedal steel, electric guitar, and background vocals), Daniel Kimbro (bass), Hunter Deacon (drums), David Mansfield (mandolin and violin), and Mickey Raphael (harmonica).
Track by Track
The album opener is “Prelude I.” This brief instrumental was co-written by Ramsey and Raphael. Picture yourself in a great open prairie or by the side of some old forgotten road in this sparse piece that sets the sound stage for what is to come.
The second selection is “Red Sky.” It’s interesting to see how lyrically he takes something old and turns it into something new. He makes it clear that life on the road can be a double-edged sword.
The next number is “Me and My Wife Ruth.” This song has a country or perhaps slow rockabilly feel to it and evokes images of an other-world Elvis-type trucker at some aging little truck stop in the middle of nowhere.
The song-story “Missouri River Hat Blowing Incident” follows here. This one has a nigh mysterious feel to it. It’s perfect for an indie movie soundtrack.
“Somewheres West” is another short instrumental. It was written by Kimbro.
“Montana Moon” was co-written with Ramsey. It might simply be your rockin’ reviewer, but this is a folk-tinged tuneful tale you might hear on an old Greg Brown or even James McMurtry album.
Our tuneful traveling troubadour seems to be hoppin’ a train on “That’s The Way I Do.” It’s a fun little number for sure. Imagine someone doing Dylan with better vocals.
Next is “Old Copper Penny.” It’s a Leon Redbone-like track for sure. Here he makes the simple special and puts the focus on self-worth in a song that might remind you of artists like Guy Clark or perhaps pre-Pixar Randy Newman.
“Once in a Blue Moon” is the album’s first single and even earned an accompanying new music video. This one takes the road trip theme one step further. Here you travel back through the musical mists of time. It is a simple but effective cowboy’s lament about lost love.
“Six Black Horses and a 72 Oz. Steak” continues the cowboy commentary but takes things in a slightly different direction. This single is vaguely reminiscent of a smoother Tom Waits tune.
“Under the Cigar Tree” takes the listener in another direction musically. Yeah, the mariachi music and even the lyrics tell us we’ve strayed too close to the border.
Also included here is the title track “Going Back To The Sky.” The placement of this piece is not necessarily clear but the signature sound remains steadfast. It’s a solid track regardless of appearing close to the end.
“Prelude II” is another little instrumental written by Ramsey. It sets the mood for the closing cut.
The closing cut is “Walking Song.” It is an apt album endnote that remains true to the overall feel of the disc and provides the audience with one more example of what Morris can do.
Overall . . .
Overall, this album is a surprisingly precise presentation of the performers’ tuneful talents. Here Morris continues to prove his worth as a songwriter often making it seem both effortless and enjoyable. The album is a collection of songs that sound like dusty highway songs if you will.
He presents song-stories that evoke musical mental images of thumbing it along some old highway or taking a near-spontaneous road trip out west. So check out RB Morris’ Going Back To The Sky and discover a sound that nowadays you only hear “Once in a Blue Moon.”