25 November 1951, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. This US singer-songwriter is arguably one of the most gifted storytellers in contemporary folk music, fashioning detailed, impressionistic songs of such quality that his songwriting is frequently mentioned in the same breath as the work of author Raymond Carver. Inevitably, Morrisseys evocative studies of character and location found a literary outlet in the 90s when he signed a publishing deal with Alfred A. Knopf. Morrissey was raised in Hartford, Connecticut and Acton, Massachusetts, the types of small towns with large blue collar communities that figure prominently in his writing. He studied briefly at Plymouth State College, New Hampshire, but graduated to the local folk circuit where he continued to learn his trade and hone his songwriting while working a variety of dead-end day jobs. His accomplished debut album, which was released in 1984, established a folk blues style rooted in the storytelling tradition of Mississippi John Hurt and Mance Lipscomb. Morrisseys big breakthrough came with an excellent set at the following years Newport Folk Festival. He signed to the Philo subsidiary of Rounder Records and released North, which featured one of his most acclaimed songs, Married Man. The failure of his own marriage and his subsequent return to small-town Newmarket, resulted in an inspired burst of songwriting, the fruits of which were heard on the excellent Standing Eight. Subtle instrumentation and backing vocals from Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin embellished a fine suite of songs, and helped establish Morrissey as one of the leading lights of the new folk movement. In 1991, Morrissey re-recorded his first album for CD release, with four songs added to the original running order. The following years Inside included a compelling ode to the legendary Robert Johnson, alongside contemporary interpretations (Off White, Everybody Warned Me) of the haunted bluesman myth. The Grammy-award nominated Friend Of Mine (1993) was recorded with Morrisseys friend and fellow singer-songwriter Greg Brown. The album featured songs the two men had played for many years, alongside autobiographical fare such as Browns Fishing With Bill. The subsequent Night Train featured a stand-out duet with David Johansen on the swing blues-styled Love Arrives.
Morrisseys debut novel Edson (1996) reworked his familiar themes of bitter disenchantment and possible redemption with some success, earning the singer positive reviews from the literary press. The same years Youll Never Get To Heaven was recorded in New Orleans, with some of that citys musical vivacity creeping into Morrisseys songs. The 1999 recording Songs Of Mississippi John Hurt was also recorded with leading New Orleans musicians, bringing a fresh musical angle to songs by one of his biggest influences. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional Folk Album category.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.