Bill Morrissey,
The Essential Collection
(Rounder, 2004)

Bill Morrissey is a marvelous writer and performer, composing and singing with a deceptive ease that hides a great writing talent. His songs are sensitive (sometimes), memorable and always worth paying attention to.

On "Barstow," he regrets "pissing his twenties away" but by the following track, "Inside," he has quietened down and gives us a haunting tale of dreams not quite fulfilled as he describes a life that is "not the life I promised you when we set off years ago." Suzanne Vega joins him on vocals. His tale of "Robert Johnson" is a well-crafted musical biography.

The joy of "Fifty" is palpable as he sings about reaching his half-century mark and reminds us that he "seen the Beatles perform live," he "owns my house and car" and he "can't get drafted." "Ice Fishing" was originally recorded 20 years ago but it retains a lovely fresh sound.

My favourite track is "Letter from Heaven." This is beautiful, witty song that tells us about characters from history and music as they cavort in Paradise. The wit is evident in lines like "Elvis likes to visit Earth just to drive you people nuts." So that explains the sightings.

Observational writing doesn't come much better in song or prose than on "Handsome Molly." There are novelists who might kill for lines like "young girls in their first heels step like colts across the square."

With 20 tracks this is a great value album. In fact, if it only had the tracks mentioned above it would be great value. The lyrics are included along with an interesting background piece on Morrissey, making this a true collector's item.

Reviews are fine but you have to hear this album. Buy it soon.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 9 July 2005

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