After spending the past few years touring behind 2018’s Dude, The Obscure, T. Hardy Morris had 13 songs demoed and ready to put on a new album. But before he could start rehearsing with his full band and book a studio, the COVID lockdowns started. A few years later, he emerged from his Athens, GA home with an entirely new record. To record the album, Morris brought in a slew of friends and contemporaries like Drive-By Truckers drummer Brad Morgan and singer-songwriter Faye Webster, who lends vocals throughout. He once again looked to Adam Landry to produce this one (along with his last solo effort and Diamond Rugs).
There is a slight sadness to the songs that make up this, his fourth solo LP and second for Normaltown Records, whether he’s singing about the rundown strip malls that tend to populate just about every town regardless of size (“Shopping Center Sunsets”) or just a general malaise of living in 2020. It’s not hard to spot the influence of the global pandemic and the introspectiveness society collectively went through this past year; it’s on songs like the title track, “Down & Out” and “First World Problems.” The former Dead Confederates and Diamond Rugs singer has a pretty distinctive voice, and it can be heard even easier on his more stripped-down solo records, like The Digital Age Of Rome. It’s a little nasally and soft-spoken, but he manages to pack a lot of emotion into those vocals.
Melancholy is covered over most of the songs that make up this album, but given the past year, that’s certainly understandable. But it also happens to be Morris’ most personal and lyrically thoughtful record yet. Thankfully, sadness and despair never sounded so good.
Photo by Alec Stanley