During the early days of Sundown in the City, Knoxville’s free concert series, R.B. Morris took the stage. I’d been waiting eagerly all week to see him and was pissed when some high school kid stood in front of me, gabbing to his friends, oblivious to the music starting on stage.
I tapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, listen to this. This guy’s great. A freakin’ poet. And he’s from around here.”
The kid gave me the look kids give some old guy who’s telling them what’s cool, and he turned back to his friends.
But after Morris finished his set, the surprised and chagrined kid turned to me and said: “He was good …”
I grinned the way an old guy grins when he’s bludgeoning youth with his hard-won wisdom.
This week, Metro Pulse has a great profile of Morris, who remains on one of my favorite singer/songwriters. He’s one of those rare people who walks his own path, regardless of what others think or demand. Maybe that’s why he toils in relative obscurity.
I’ve never met Morris, but the accounts of him I’ve heard over the years ring very true to the portrait Metro Pulse writer Mike Gibson offers in the story.
Why is R.B. a cut above all those other singer/songwriters out there? I think Todd Steed (another Knoxville gem in his own right), sums it up best in this quote from the story:
“R.B. is almost like a verbal version of Thelonious Monk. It’s like jazz, verbal riffing, full of stops and starts and turns and spontaneous humor.”