Pheonix38@aol.com | Charleston, South Carolina | 02/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Burnet Pearce Bill Morrissey is a singer/songwriter who has faced and overcome many obstacles in his life. Being a college dropout, he never really had many options in the working world. He went from job to job, never working for more than a few months and never losing sight of his dream. This dream was to become a professional musician, and even through his jobs at gas stations and fast food restaurants, he never failed to create songs. Then, after many years of bar gigs and unanswered prayers, he finally got out of his rut and was given the opportunity to advance. Morrissey's songs arise from his struggles and his periods of ill fate, and just like his life, many of his songs seem to have a redemptive quality in the end. These songs often deal with the many trials of life, and how an individual might deal with those trials. In an interview with Bruce Baker, Morrissey reveals that he is fascinated with "how people make their way in the world," and "what people are willing to do" to get by. His characters tend to personify this fascination, for quite often they find themselves stuck in a hopeless situation, and generally they are faced with a unique and socially unacceptable opportunity to overcome that situation. In his album, You'll Never Get to Heaven, Morrissey presents a nonjudgmental and unbiased look at the things that people are willing to do in order to overcome their obstacles and rid themselves of their despair. The song "When Summer's Ended" is an excellent example of how hope and love can redeem an empty heart. A young woman, with beauty and radiance shining through her, comes to see her old lover, who is still cold and hurt inside. She comes to him "with summer deep in her heart," hoping that maybe his heart too has mended. She has been redeemed from the pain of losing him because she has come to the understanding that "love goes only to return in a new heart, and this time . . . she knows that heart is inside her." She realizes that love comes not from another, but instead from within herself. With this awakening, she comes to her ex-lover to share her hope that "what love believes in can never grow old." He, through the woman's return, is faced with the opportunity to be free from the dying process that is going on inside of him. He is given a chance of redemption, and a chance to experience the beauty and love that she has felt all along. This song, which presents redemption through love, offers a pure and socially acceptable end to loneliness. Many of Morrissey's songs, however, do not offer such a pure solution. "Married for Money" presents a case in which a poor girl frees herself by marrying a rich man. Being poor in a small mill town she had "Nothing but a trailer, nothing but a mill." Many of her friends judged her for her decision, but "if she'd listened to them she'd be there still." She took a chance that many, including her friends, would judge as socially unacceptable, but through this chance she was presented with an opportunity for happiness. She took this opportunity and "now the world looks so pretty from her Cadillac / She married for money and she never looked back." Another song that presents a socially unacceptable means of redemption is "Waiting for the Rain." This is a dark song, with a dismal undertone. This song is about a farming couple sitting on their front porch, baking in the heat, and waiting for the rain. There is an underlying theme of hopelessness and despair throughout this song that is portrayed by the deep melody of the piano and the sinister rhythm of the electric guitar. The couple is just sitting "with nothing left to do, nothing left to save," just waiting for the darkness of the thunderclouds to overtake them. Then the rain comes, the fields catch fire, and the man "slips two shells in the gun." One shell for him, and one for his wife. He and his wife both feel that the only way to end the pain, hopelessness, and emptiness is through death. Though many would disagree with his actions, he saw what he did as the only way out, a method of redemption, and a movement to a better place. "Different Currency" also deals with the extremes that someone will go to in order to change a bad life situation. This song is about a young waitress who finds herself lost in a cold world. She is a roamer living in the north, dying to get back home to Atlanta, and "she'd have done just about anything that night / to get that ride down south." She spots a man in a booth and sets up a ride with him. Being that she has little money, she knows that she'll have to pay "with different currency." She takes the ride though, and she gets out of that town, because "There's only so much snow and cold you can take / So many stranger's eyes. / Till you have to get yourself back home." So with the price of her body, she gets a ride home to the safety of her family. Though the price she paid to get home might be accepted by very few, it offers her a chance of hope and redemption. Through the deed she did, she was able to leave her old life behind and, Morrissey implies, start anew. Many of the choices that one makes to get by in life are often unacceptable by the population, for they are separate from society's norms. People do, however, make these choices every day, and quite often, if faced with a similar situation, the average person would make the same choice. From this philosophy emerges Bill Morrissey's songs. He takes average working class people and puts them in a hopeless situation. He then honestly and accurately portrays the deeds they would do in order to free themselves. It is as if he wants to put the listener in their shoes and say, "Tell me . . . what would you say / if the same chance / came your way?" Though some of his songs offer pure redemption, most do not, and Morrissey, through his nonjudgmental approach, reveals that neither method is better and neither method is worse. Morrissey also reveals that some get by through perseverance, not compromise. His life is an example of this, for in advancing in the musical industry, Morrissey never compromised his integrity. Instead, Morrissey overcame his many obstacles through his hard work and dedication, and this album shows that even through all his trials, he made it."
"Different currency" indeed...and valuable as hell
William E. Adams | Lovington, NM United States | 09/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found this at a bargain price a week ago, but I knew nothing about Bill Morrissey. I figured that I trusted Philo/Rounder records to put out work in styles I like, by people worth recording, so I bought it. It took about three songs for me to accept Bill's "lived-in" voice and distinctive phrasing. By the time I heard all of it, I had to start it again. It is such a contrast to the majority of country and even contemporary folk releases, it takes a while to realize how wonderful the album is. Bill has written a mixture of quiet and uptempo songs of uniform quality, but varied emotions. Songs two through five are worth the purchase price along...they just are quirky, true, pleasant offerings that invite repeated listenings. A later song, "Different Currency" is about trading ... for a two-day free ride from far North to warmer Atlanta...but it's also about Bill Morrissey's whole musical approach being of a different currency than just about anyone else's. There are hints of the sensibilities and talents of Harry Chapin, Christine Lavin, Todd Snider, and to my ear and mind, David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears (although I doubt anyone else will find a similarity there...for some reason, I sensed a kinship although their vocal abilities are disparate.) One of the ways I evaluate the first album I hear from an artist previously unknown to me is to ask myself when I'm through listening "Would I be interested in talking over dinner with this person? Would I pay to see him/her play live?" In Morrissey's case, the answers were Yes and Yes. "You'll never get to heaven" is filled with great arrangements, great choices in instrumentation, great playing that perfectly complements Bill's lyrics and vocalizations. Take a chance on this one if you respect "non-commercial" singer/songwriters of obvious integrity and talent. I have not a shred of musical ability, I've just been a fan of all kinds for 50 years, but I really, really like this offbeat slice of life."
"Folk Songs From The Edge"
nepos | California | 03/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection of folksongs is a montage of stories about people living on the edge of society, from all walks of life. It's as if Morrissey has put the painting,"Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper, to music.The songwriting is stark and unique and startling, as is the voice of Mr. Morrissey. Some of music blends almost into jazz riffs. This is truly a beautiful poetic piece of musical work."
Hardness and Darkness
nepos | California | 03/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection of songs are short stories about people from all walks of life who are isolated in some way and find themselves at the fringes of society. There is a deep undercurrent of the loneliness in the American fabric of life portrayed in these songs. Mr. Morrissey uses an interesting array of musical instruments in his folk tunes including saxophones, tubas,trombones, and the piano. This is a beautiful, and disturbing piece of folk music work."
A great introduction to Bill Morrissey
nepos | 05/11/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First heard the track "When Summer Ended" on a Folk oriented radio station, and I loved it so much I went out and bought the CD that day. I couldn't believe how compelling this guy's voice is - gravelley and full of emotion. He can tell such a story with his ballads, as if he's known for years the people of whom he sings. His songs are sometimes sweet, and sometimes bitter, but they are always evocative."