Monday, May 26, 2008

1984: Texas Blues

Bill Morrissey: Texas Blues


The NYC folk revival was an underground hothouse of confessional acoustic music in 1984; many artists felt ready for major label attention, but recording equipment was prohibitively expensive, and demos were hard to come by. In support of this phenomenon, The Songwriter Collective, a long-standing Greenwich Village coffeehouse and songwriter's performing space, started recording and releasing compilation albums of their singer-songwriters once a month as an audio magazine. They called it Fast Folk, and it quickly became the breeding ground and first recording source for a whole new generation of singer-songwriters.

In its fifteen year run, Fast Folk spawned and sustained a comprehensive revival of folk music in America. Some star players who first recorded for Fast Folk -- Tracy Chapman, Lyle Lovett, Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin among them -- would go on to win broad recognition in a folkpop world to come. Others became staples of the coffeehouse and folk festival scene, revitalizing the folk scene for a new community of fans, and providing new blood to replace or replenish the aging folkstars of the sixties and seventies.

One of the first artists from this group to press their own wax, Bill Morrissey was an elder statesman of sorts, his sound a throwback to something older and wiser. Equal parts Mississippi John Hurt, early Hank Williams country, and pure New York/New England folk, he never rose as far as some of his peers. But he remains a respected coffeehouse performer and songwriter whose songs still get covered by new generations of folk musicians.

In his signature strangled tenor, this song is just the most lonesome thing ever. Here's a bonus cover of the same song, done a decade later by another Fast Folk alumni and one of my absolute favorite sweet-voiced women of folk, which comes pretty close.

Lucy Kaplansky: Texas Blues [purchase]

Bonus: Here's a closer look at Bill Morrissey's connection with Mississippi John Hurt, with a few more cover tracks to boot -- including a second cover from Cover Lay Down favorite Lucy Kaplansky.