RB Morris is not the first songwriter that's a writer in other areas, but he is especially eclectic. Credits include poet, playwright and writer-in-residence at the University of Tennessee. His multiple recordings have covered some ground as well, like the Leonard Cohen stylings of "I Left a Blue Shirt in Paris" or the cabaret flair of "Old Copper Penny." Perhaps his biggest musical success wasn't fully his - when John Prine covered Morris' "That's How Every Empire Falls," it was the equivalent of a shiny, gold songwriting trophy.
"Going Back to the Sky" is Morris' Western record – it's not the "Old" West, either, but intentionally defies placement in any particular time. Oftentimes the listener will get their bearings as to place, to emphasize the scope of one big country in between Moosejaw and Mexico. From the simple cowboy chords and harmonica of the opening prelude, Morris puts us in the West of myth, and if we're lucky, memory. His characters might not have much money, but they do have the time to roam and reflect. "Red Sky" is an absolute highlight. It's accented by a mournful fiddle solo, atop simple poetry about hard luck that the singer may or may not deserve.
Morris likes playing around with singing stylings – some very early Dylan is evident on "That's The Way I Do," and it's a fun toe-tapper. Everly Brothers crooning evokes the time gone by on "Once in a Blue Moon." Maybe the grim Clint-Eastwood delivery on "Montana Moon" is a little silly, but the spooky guitar slides satisfy. "Old Copper Penny" gets another work-up with more campfire mood – the list of all the instruments on this record is small enough to pack in a chuckwagon.
There was an age in the USA when most TV shows and half the movies were Westerns. It all was too ubiquitous and lasted too long to write off as a simple fad. A good songwriter like Morris knows that those big sand-swept landscapes are the perfect backdrop to fill with our secrets, longings and love. Saddle up and ride awhile.