VizzTone Label Group VTTM-01
10 songs – 41 minutes
Based in Boston and only age 19, Tyler Morris has been delivering his own version of rock flavored blues as a professional since he was just 11. Joe Louis Walker lends a hand on this collection of nine originals and one cover, the third CD in the young man’s catalog.
An electrifying guitarist who shies away from the microphone, Morris penned nine of the 10 songs here, leaving vocal duties to bandmate Morton Fredheim, who powers through the originals, and Walker, who shines on the sole cover.
Like many musicians his age, Morris fell in love with the music while barely out of the womb through his father’s record collection, which consisted of both blues and rock. He started playing guitar at age 9, influenced by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyd before moving on to Van Halen and Gary Moore. Still approaching his teens he devoured and absorbed the works of Freddie and Albert King, T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters before moving on to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.
He released his first album, And So It Begins, at age 15, The Chaos Continues a year later, and he’s shared the stage with a wide variety of talents, including Sammy Hagar, Yngwie Malmsteen, Leslie West, Robbin Ford and Massachusetts-based harmonica legend James Montgomery, among others.
As you might expect from his influences, this CD leans far more to the rock side than it does blues. In addition to Fredheim, Tyler’s backed by bassist Scott Spray and drummer Tyger MacNeal. Mike Dimeo contributes keyboards on four cuts, and the New York-based Uptown Horns propel one number. The album was produced by guitarist Paul Nelson, who won a Grammy for longtime bandmate Johnny Winter’s Step Back album and nominations for others.
“Ready To Shove” kicks off the action with a quiet, almost symphonic opener before exploding into a searing uptempo rocker. Fredheim’s vocals are strong and pleasant atop a heavy drumbeat and strong single-note runs and chords from Morris, highlighted by a rapid-fire solo mid-tune. “Livin’ The Life” picks up where that one left off as it encourages the listener to being one’s self.
The mood changes dramatically for “Willie The Wimp,” the first true blues number in the set. Written by Bill Carter and Ruth Ellsworth and recorded by Vaughan, it’s a funky number that features Walker on vocals and Morris delivering a steady six-note hook throughout with intermittent breaks before a longer solo as it describes the title character’s funeral.
It’s back to heavy blues rock for “Down On My Luck” before the stop-time instrumental treasure, “Choppin’,” which features the Uptown Horns, an ensemble that’s been swinging from the rafters for the better part of 40 decades behind everyone from B.B. King to Aretha Franklin. Tyler’s in total control here for what stands out as the best song in the set.
“Talkin’ To Me,” a medium-tempo shuffle blues built on a single hook, follows before more power guitar runs deliver “Thunder,” “This Ain’t No Fun” and “Truth Is The Question.” The disc concludes with “Keep On Driving,” which features an interesting, percussive rhythm and well-modulated guitar riffs.
If you’re a fan of blues-rock, you’ll like this one. It’s available through most online retailers. But like many guitarists his age, Tyler needs to go back to the basics to please old-school blues fans who understand the value of a whole note and the importance of the space between notes rather than over-the-top fret work.
That said, Tyler Morris possesses immense talent, and is someone worth watching.