Bill Morrissey at the Handlebar, Greenville, South Carolina, April 4, 1998

Date:          Mon, 06 Apr 1998 08:19:05 -0700
From:          Steve Crump <crumps@CLEMSON.EDU>
Subject:       Bill Morrissey at the Handlebar - 4/4/98

Hello Everyone:

I saw Bill Morrissey at the Handlebar in Greenville, SC this past Saturday evening. The Handlebar is one of the better places to hear live music on the east coast. It is a smoke free "listening room" located in an old mill. At one point during the show, Bill commented: "Thirty years in the music business and I'm still working in a mill".

My wife, Janet, and I had the chance to meet Bill right after his soundcheck, and found him to be gracious and inquisitive. He was very interested in the area, what we were reading lately, etc. (For that matter, I can highly recommend Rick Bragg's memoir, All Over But the Shoutin.)

Bill commented that he was just about finished with his next book, which has a working title of Slow Blues. Also, during the show he commented that he should have a new CD out by next winter. When I asked him about this afterwards, he commented that the songs weren't written yet, but that he was anticipating a flurry of creative activity similar to what happened with Edson/You'll Never Get To Heaven.

You also might be interested to learn that the film rights to Edson have been purchased/optioned by the Austin Film Festival, who, in Bill's words, "Will turn it into a screenplay, because actors don't read novels".

The show itself was great. This was my fifth Bill Morrissey show, and I have never seen him looser, or in a more jovial mood. This is best illustrated by the fact that he played almost 90 minutes, and "only" did the following 13 songs:

  1. Different Currency
  2. Casey, Illinois
  3. Letter From Heaven
  4. Handsome Molly
  5. Motels and Planes
  6. As Long As The Sun
  7. Girl From the North Country
  8. Barstow
  9. Ice Fishing
  10. Off-White
  11. Robert Johnson
  12. Birches
  13. These Cold Fingers
I say "only" with tongue in cheek, because the interludes were filled with anecdotes and asides told in the best "storyteller" fashion. There were the familiar riffs I had heard before regarding yard sales, Shakespeare as performed in Texas and Maine, and fascination with southern cuisine (especially grits, which he said were great for spackling).

There were also some new ones I have not heard before. (I must be selective here, because afterwards, Bill feined concern that I would tell all of his jokes on the Birches list). I'll just mention his story about his performance in the a small Wisconsin town earlier this year (that I seem to recall was reviewed here on Birches). This town was proud of the fact that Bob Dylan had attended summer camp there as a child. In his best Dylan voice, Bill wondered about a young Dylan stating, "We're going to make a wallet", or, "I want to ride in the bow of the canoe". Obviously, you had to be there, but the moment was priceless, and provided the optimum lead-in for his cover of Girl From the North Country.

This was the last show of the tour, and Bill honored my request to play These Cold Fingers as the encore song. I had several friends there to see the show, and afterwards several were visibly moved by "that song about the dog". While I obviously love the song, I am always slightly amused at how people can sit through songs about fires, layoffs, and devasted relationships, and it is These Cold Fingers that hooks them.

Well, I guess we're in a holding pattern now, where we wait for the new book and CD. Looking forward to both.

Steve Crump