Thursday, August 15, 2013

Album Review - T. Hardy Morris, Audition Tapes

T. Hardy Morris
Audition Tapes

Dangerbird Records

Reminiscence is a more common musical theme than coming of age. Everybody has a past. All to often in music, the artist doesn't have a future. Both themes are effectively spun on Audition Tapes, the debut solo effort from Athens, GA stalwart and Dead Confederate frontman T. Hardy Morris. 

While young at 33, Morris is a veteran of the music scene, having played live music in Confederate and its predecessors (Redbelly) dating back to his teenage years. His experience shows here in perspective and patience. Confederate fans will be surprised by the tempered ambiance of Morris outside of his normal context. The stainless industrialism of Confederate is nowhere to be found, and Morris decompresses wearing a (figurative) thrift store Cowboy hat. The result is stripped-down, pedal steel infused indie folk that evokes Unplugged-era Kirk Cobain blended with Harvest Moon Neil Young. The musical theme is subtle, with open-space instrumentation devoid of flash but supportive of the contemplative mood.  

Statements of nascent post-road adulthood (excellent opening track "Lucky") are patiently presented alongside cautionary tales of excess ("Hardstuff," with its stirring "leave yourself alone" refrain; album closer "Own Worst Enemy"). On another page, the listener gets a playful look backwards with the portrait-of-youth title track (Wes Anderson, take note). Mature advice is dispensed in the form of "Disaster Proof." (The comforts of marriage and home inevitably give a man perspective.) The material here is serious in theme, but none of it feels heavy. It's a neat trick. If this is Morris's audition tape, he makes the cast.    

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