Morris brings history to life in song

AMONG many things, Russell Morris loves a good yarn.

And Launceston happens to feature in one of his more bizarre.

In May, the man behind the critically acclaimed Sharkmouth will take the stage at the Country Club Tasmania with fellow industry veterans Joe Camilleri, Richard Clapton and Leo Sayer.

Morris said he had fond memories of the venue - with one particular incident at the premises standing out.

"We once had a keyboard player with us who'd never gambled in his life," Morris said.

"He wanted to play some blackjack. So we taught him how to on the way down there.

"As we get there, there's this guy who looked like Jesus Christ stumbling around.

"He grabbed our keyboardist by the shoulders and said to him: `you can't lose'.

"Sure enough, Chris won every hand he played. He won an absolute fortune."

Storytelling has become more prominent in Morris' music in the past few years.

His 2013 album of self-penned blues music, Sharkmouth, brought to life some of Australia's notorious and colourful characters of the 1920s and '30s and reached number six on the ARIA charts.

Now he's back with the beefy Van Diemens Land, another bluesy collection that pays homage to Australia's vibrantly chequered history.

Breaker Morant, written by Morris and Shannon Bourne, is a song about Harry "The Breaker" Morant, who fought in the Boer War with the South Australian Rifles, and was executed in 1902 for his role in the killing of some Boer prisoners.

"I spent over a year researching these great Australian stories," Morris said.

"Some people might think the topics are pretty dark, but the fact is, some our past was incredibly scary.

"To me, these albums are about looking back at the characters that deserve to be remembered and then doing that in the best way I know how - through song.

"My prime objective is for people who haven't heard the stories to listen to the songs, ask themselves `what is that all about?' then Google it and find out about our rich history."

Another song from Van Diemen's Land focuses on the Loch Ard Gorge - where the clipper ship Loch Ard ran aground in 1878.

Of the 54 passengers and crew bound for Melbourne, only two survived: 15-year-old apprentice Tom Pearce and 17-year-old Irishwoman Eva Carmichael.

According to memorials at the site, Pearce rescued Carmichael from the water after he was washed ashore, proceeding to climb out of the gorge and raise the alarm to local pastoralists.

Also appearing on the new album is Black Sorrows frontman Camilleri.

The two are long-time friends and collaborators, with Morris looking forward to four weeks on the road together.

Email adruce@examiner.com.au

Twitter @AlexDruce1987

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