Russell Morris, Sharkmouth,
Fanfare 085, 2012, $24.95
Review by Jack Humphrys
The 65 year old Morris’s music career started with the group, Somebody’s Image, who had a hit in 1967 with a cover of the late Joe South’s great song, Hush.
However, it was the classic and unusual, The Real Thing, that brought Morris to prominence in 1969 as the quintessential Aussie pop star. Hit songs, some written by Morris, followed - Girl That I Love, Rachel, Mr America and Wings of an Eagle. So did the search for overseas success, in the UK and US during the late ‘seventies, with the usual struggles and let downs. Since returning to Australia, for the last thirty years, Morris has been making a living in various musical groups travelling the continent and contributing to the odd film score.
Sharkmouth comes out of left field, with Morris showing a real penchant for writing about and singing the blues rather than the pop style. Inspired by the stories of his grandmother, who lived to 93, and by his working class Richmond (Melbourne) background, these songs “attempt to capture some of the characters, events and moods–from 1919 to the 40’s with the exception of Mr Eternity - 50-60s”.
Morris sings about the Wall St collapse that began the Great Depression (The Big House), the 1927 war on the Victorian Docks (Bout to Break), and being on the road in the 1930s(Walking My Blues). Songs about the sleazy side of life include The Drifter, Squizzy and a song set in Sydney called The Bridge. Other songs are about the famous race horse, Phar Lap, and the boxer, Les Darcy.
Musicians of the calibre of Renee Geyer, Chris Wilson, Diesel, Troy Casser-Daley and James Black provide fine support on this project.
Without any commercial airplay, this album has achieved sales of 80,000- a big result in the small Australian music scene.
Russell Morris’s “second album of historically inspired blues-roots songs”, Van Diemen’s Land (Fanfare) was released in mid April.