Charlie Morris Band – At the Firehouse
CD: 14 Songs, 74 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Live Album
In several past reviews, I’ve detailed the differences between live and studio albums in terms of content, volume, energy level, and atmosphere. Perhaps the greatest difference on a live album lies in the old adage: “Give the people what they want (and they’ll come to see it).” In 2019 in Ruskin, Florida, At the Firehouse Cultural Center, the Charlie Morris Band recorded a crisp, clear concert. This was pre-COVID, pre-toilet-paper-panic, pre-economic-shutdowns related to such. Masks and mandates had yet to be put into place. Ah, those halcyon days! Morris and his fellow musicians bring them back on their most current release, three years later, in a supposed post-COVID world.
They present fourteen terrific tracks: ten originals and four covers (“Love Her with a Feeling” by Colin Smith Whittaker, “It Shoulda Been Me” by Eddie “Memphis” Curtis, “Too Many Bad Habits” by John Nicholas, and “Won’t You Tell Me Your Name” by Jerry Quinn). Part of their allure lies not only in their excellent musicianship, but in their close rapport. Exhibit A? After the band’s keyboardist slays and plays with much “Feeling,” Charlie says, “What you all think about Mr. Kevin Wilder?” (Applause) “Well, guess I’d better play something now. You didn’t leave me much.” Then Morris proves everyone, including himself, utterly wrong. Another highlight is the man’s original songwriting, like on “My Baby Don’t Cook.” This swing blues number will get you on your feet in two seconds flat. The lyrics are funny, so grab your honey, whether they’re a whiz in the kitchen or not. Continuing with the food theme is “Y’all Come Over for Dinner,” adding a dash of funk to the blues gumbo these Floridians are serving up hot.
Morris’ vocals are diction-perfect if not pitch-perfect. Even people with less-than-stellar hearing will be able to understand his lyrics. As for his fretwork? Smooth and sizzling. Although he doesn’t go for Hendrix-style shredder, that’s okay. Low-to-medium-key blues is this band’s thing. With him are the aforementioned Kevin Wilder on keyboards, Andrew Lack on second guitar, and Eric Elsner on drums. Together they form an ensemble that’ll please any crowd.
States Charlie on his website: “My first proper professional gig was. . .at a place called the Starlight Lounge (which explains a lot). In Tennessee, I came to love bluegrass and singer-songwriter acoustic music. On the cruise ships, I fell in love with jazz. In Europe, I got into Flamenco, Celtic and African music. And in New Orleans, I just listened and tried to sop up some of that gumbo!
So, if you’re expecting to hear some ‘authentic’ blues, bluegrass or anything else – sorry. My work is the product of all the great music I’ve listened to in my life, and all the great musicians I’ve met and played with along the way.”
Even so, if you love live albums and a fun, enjoyable album, stop for a spell At The Firehouse!