T E Morris – Pocklington Arts Centre, 24th May 2013
Like Lawrence many years before him, when it comes down to publishing T E Morris favours initials over names. And just as Lawrence forged his reputation from his activities and associations with the Middle East, Morris has also gained wider acclaim in foreign lands. For him, he is bigger in the Ukraine and Russia than he is in his native land. Despite a prolific recorded output which now dates back five years, first with the band Her Name Is Calla and more recently as an artist in his own right, he continues to struggle for any wider recognition in this country. Having now spent more than an hour in his company, it is very difficult to comprehend why this should still be the case.
The sudden and unexpected demise of the intended support act Buffalo Skinners the day beforehand had irrevocably changed the complexion and structure of this evening. It quickly became a solo performance in every sense of the word, Tom Morris presenting himself in the bar of the Pocklington Arts Centre in front of just 13 people amongst whose number were his closest friends and six year old daughter. It moved the word intimacy into another dimension and for those of us who were fortunate enough to be there we should be eternally grateful.
Accompanying himself on guitar, Morris opened with The Hanging Man, one of three songs he was to perform from his EP of the same name. Like many of his songs, it mines a lyrical seam of love, loss, regret and self-recrimination. “I broke up in the atmosphere”; the refrain resonates, his voice replete with a combustible energy that perhaps only vulnerability and inner strength can bring.
Recorded at his Pocklington home late last year, The Hanging Man is Morris’s sixth and penultimate EP; the previous five, similarly limited hand-packaged copies, having all long since sold out. Alongside the subsequent EP After The War Ends, it heralds the arrival of his second solo album, And You Were The Hunter four songs from which are previewed tonight. The first of these is ‘The Long Distance Runner’. Like its title it is indefatigable, its inherent power ebbs and flows to the cadence of Morris’s emotions as he struggles to make sense of the position in which he finds himself and the guilt that he feels, his voice tracing the remarkable arc of Jeff Buckley’s lost highway.
‘Haven’ and ‘I Was The Last One’, also taken from the forthcoming album, follow. The former sees Morris reproduce the sexual release and electric frenzy of the studio version as his voice spirals into its upper register, whilst the latter does eventually offer some guarded optimism for future happiness. But to reflect Tom Morris as just another bedroom miserabilist, another tortured singer-songwriter, would be wholly inaccurate. In between the undoubted vicissitudes of his life and songs of personal failing, he presents as a noble, charming man imbued with remarkable self-awareness and humour, his tales of being asked to perform first dances and dirges at funerals in Russia being a quite perfect illustration of this.
On ‘I Love You Satellite’, and for the only time tonight, he shifts to the holy trinity of Macbook, Logic and keys. The result is ethereal, the shimmering beauty of the melody somehow managing to mask the song’s deep yearning and sorrow. In the title song from his most recent EP, replicated on the new album, Morris conveys his repugnance and moral sense in equal measure, conveying these mixed emotions in a voice that vacillates between Thom Yorke and a much younger Roy Harper. An ensuing cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ is a quite perfect sequitur.
In time-honoured music hall tradition and following on from what has already been the most beguiling of performances, T E Morris saves his very best for last. After ‘I Could Have Been A Fire’, the only song tonight taken from his debut solo album We Were Animals, comes one that despite his having written it more than ten years ago has not yet been released. ‘Your Life In Pictures’, prescient and poignant, could have gone on forever but it finally brought him back to where we were, thirteen very fortunate people sat in the bar of the Pocklington Arts Centre.
And You Were The Hunter is released on 27th May 2013 via Function Records.
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