Artist Spotlight – Neil Morris

Until last week, Neil Morris had never blipped on my radar. Although his debut disc, Rosieface, came without the standard press confetti, the liner notes laughed at my ignorance. Names like Jerry Douglas and Warren Haynes popped off the paper. The record — a tender dose of Americana — is full of potent lyrics (“Watercolor Chevrolet” stands out), pristine picking and Morris’ voice, which never ebbs in its storytelling prowess.

A poet and musician living in Brevard, Morris has played music since age 9. His father owned a radio station in Hendersonville, allowing the younger access to a profusion of genres. “[Being a] troubadour is a fairly frugal life,” Morris said about his ’70s stints up and down the East Coast, “so I’ve always kept square with the world with carpentry.”

He even played semi-pro rugby for awhile.

Morris moved to Asheville in 1978, where he met Warren Haynes. He even participated at the first few X-mas Jams at the now-defunct 45 Cherry Street. He then moved to Nashville, living the three-job life for 10 years until returning to his beloved mountains to live “a very private, but not exactly reclusive, life.”

Morris is also the sole owner of his music label, Big Hungry Music, and his debut Rosieface was ten years in the making. He is currently planning an album release party with Sons of Ralph at Jack of the Wood. For more info visit www.bighungrymusic.com.

Show review

Wisler BBQ Benefit for the Eblen Energy Project and WNCW New Orleans Musician Collection; featuring Dave Desmelik, Dark Engine, Shawna and Moose, and the Wisler BBQ Band Crest Mountain Pavilion; Thursday, Dec. 8: Three Stars

Genre(s): Rock-n-roll, indie, Americana

Be glad you stayed home if: You find the three B’s (benefits, barbeque, bands) akin to the three 6’s.

Defining moment: When Shawna and Moose (the tongue-and-cheek duo formerly known as Dragonmoose) effortlessly took on the task of Rush’s complicated epic, “YYZ.”

Located at the heart of Crest Mountain near Leicester, the Crest Mountain Pavilion could be the next music mecca. “I want to have across-the-spectrum music in the future,” said owner Reece Lasher. “I don’t want to theme it.”

Boasting immaculate sound, the Pavilion housed the Wisler Barbeque Benefit. Organizer Adam Wisler is the primary architect for the Crest Mountain development, as well as a part-time pianist. His Wisler BBQ Band (with guitarist Gavin Cooper) opened the festivities. Their cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” was unexpectedly potent. Young’s song of pillaged Indians seemed appropriate on a night dedicated to raising money for the pillaged poverty in New Orleans.

The biggest surprise of the night was The Dark Engine, a confident and edgy power trio who came across as a keyed-up Joy Division, only without the dramatic downturns.

[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]

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