R.B. Morris’ style defies classification. Is it rock? Americana? Country? Is it poetry? Fiction? The MC community will have the opportunity to find out for themselves on Oct. 11 at 7:00 p.m. when Morris performs in the Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.
Morris’s performance will be the second installment of the Appalachian Lecture Series this fall. Much of his work is set firmly in East Tennessee, where he has spent most of his life.
Songs like “Distillery” explore Appalachian cultural and spiritual values in unexpected and original ways; others, like “A Winter’s Tale,” immerse listeners into fully realized settings with trance-inducing detail. He’s also done a rock ‘n’ roll version of Robert Mitchum’s “The Ballad of Thunder Road,” a tragic tale of the old moonshine route between Knoxville and Eastern Kentucky.
His most recent CD, “Rich Mountain Bound,” includes “love songs, mountain songs, drinking and highway songs,” Morris said. It’s a CD that evokes an impromptu concert on the front porch of a mountain cabin.
His first two CDs, “Take that Ride” and “Zeke and the Wheel,” were lauded by critics. “That’s How Every Empire Falls,” a song off his 2010 CD, “Spies, Lies and Burning Eyes,” was covered by English singer-songwriter Marianne Faithfull.
Nashville music writer Peter Cooper described “Zeke and the Wheel” as “an eccentric melding of blistering rock ‘n’ roll, beat poetry, hillbilly twang, spiritual musings and road-weary, punch-drunk tales from life’s other side.”
Lucinda Williams called Morris “the greatest unknown songwriter in America.”
Morris has published four volumes of poetry, most recently “Keeping the Bees Employed.” He has written a one-man play, which he performs, “The Man Who Lives Here Is Loony,” based on the life and work of Knoxville author James Agee.
His influences are both literary and musical: Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, James Joyce, William Burroughs and many of the Beat poets of the 1950s.