Something I Saw or Thought I Saw
Bill Morrissey's first album of original songs in five years, Something I Saw or Thought I Saw
is now available at record stores and through on-line music
sites, including Rounder Records.
Bill produced and arranged the album himself. Musicians include Kent
Allyn (keyboards and guitar), Johnny Cunningham (violin), Marc Elbaum (clarinet
and tenor sax), David Henderson (bass), and Cormac McCarthy (harmonica). The songs are:
- Twenty-Third Street
- Harry's Last Call
- Just Before We Lost the War
- Winter Song
- Moving Day
- Buddy Bolden's Blues
- St. Valentine's Day
- Traveling by Cab
- Fix Your Hair the Way You Used To
- Judgment Day
- Will You Be My Rose?
Bill in the studio recording Something I Saw or Though I Saw (photo by Annie Provenzano)
The title comes from the first line of a Robert Frost
poem (circa 1937), "On the Heart's Beginning to Cloud the Mind":
Something I saw or thought I saw
In the desert at midnight in Utah,
Looking out of my lower berth
At moonlit sky and moonlit earth.
The sky had here and there a star;
The earth had a single light afar,
A flickering, human pathetic light,
That was maintained against the night,
It seemed to me, by the people there,
With a God-forsaken brute despair.
It would flutter and fall in half an hour
Like the last petal off a flower....
This I saw when waking late,
Going by at a railroad rate,
Looking through wreaths of engine smoke
Far into the lives of other folk.
The first song, "Twenty-third Street," is set in New York City's Chelsea Hotel. The hotel has
a long history of famous literary residents and guests, including Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe, Dylan Thomas, and Arthur Miller.
Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls was shot at the hotel.
Among the musicians who have stayed there are Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix,
and Sid Vicious. Cohen
and Dylan have referenced the hotel in song.
Rounder's page has a 40-second soundclip from the song.
Photos of the Chelsea Hotel
Buddy Bolden's Blues
Buddy Bolden (1877-1931) was a bandleader who played the improvised form that came to be known as jazz.
Bill Morrissey's new song references an old song with the same title, credited to Jelly Roll Morton, which itself
is based on Bolden's "Funky Butt." (Bill covered Mississippi John Hurt's version of "Funky But"
on his last album, Songs of Misssissippi John Hurt.)
Kent Allyn (photo by Annie Provenzano)
Commentary and Reviews
- "Bill Morrissey has pulled off that rare American feat: a true artistic reawakening in middle age....
[T]he instrumental sound of the new album more than supports Morrissey's words. Working
with very old friends, the songwriter produced the album himself, and it's a spare, canny beauty."
The Boston Herald, April 6, 2001
- "The result is Something I Saw or Thought I Saw (Philo/Rounder), another
finely wrought collection that reestablishes Morrissey as one of the
best musical storytellers you're ever likely to hear. Rich in evocative detail and descriptionit's no wonder he
writes fictionthe songs unerringly uncover the often tough emotional truths that Morrissey is digging for."
The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 13, 2001
- "New Morrissey disc is steeped in tender melancholy.... [T]here are plenty of finely whittled lyrics throughout. In short, it's Morrissey being brilliant,
just in a darker way than experienced on his in-between-divorce records."
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, April 5, 2001
- "Despite the air of uncertainty in the title, Bill Morrissey
shows that he needn't discern between fact and fiction to create unforgettable acoustic-folk music."
Drew Wheeler, CDNow
- "[T]hroughout the record, Morrissey finds a humble but deeply affecting grace
between the vibrant world of memory and desire and the stark facts of reality."
The Charleston Gazette, March 15, 2001
- "With his keen eye for detail and tersely sketched characters, the
songs on Something I Saw strike a clean balance between economy and
The Philadelphia City Paper, April 12, 2001
- "Something I Saw or Thought I Saw is chock full of Morrissey’s trademark
story-songs that capture characters in the midst of transitions in which
they are reevaluating and reexamining their lives and relationships."
Seth Rogovoy, The Berkshire Eagle, March 9, 2001
- Morrissey's sparse lyrical vignettes feature people we've all met.... Rarely do the songs
sound as if they were performed by a full band; no drums are in the mix. The solo instrumental lines are
sprinkled conservatively throughout the recording, helping set the mood of each song without drawing focus away from Morrissey's voice.
The Worcester Phoenix, April 5, 2001
Soundclips in mp3 Format