Folk Legend Opens Series at Carnegie: Bill Morrissey

June 13, 1996

by Jan Perry

With enough musical sense to know when to leave a song alone and a voice only Leon Redbone's mother could love, Bill Morrissey created a career for himself by helping resuscitate the country's nearly lifeless interest in folk music. 

''There was no future in it,'' said Morrissey. ''Folk really didn't have a following anymore. There were little scenes around - but you sure couldn't make a living at it.'' 

Appearing at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Carnegie Arts Center in Covington, Morrissey and guest Kate Campbell are part of the Summer Concert Series. 

In the early '80s, along with friends John Gorka, Greg Brown and a handful of New Hampshire folk hopefuls, Morrissey discovered a club with an open mike on Sunday night. 

''It was great,'' he said, ''a free roast-beef dinner, all the beer you could drink and a chance to make some music.'' 

He credits those sessions with some of his later success. 

''Every week I'd have a different backup band - one time a keyboard, sax and guitar; the next, maybe a banjo, piano and string bass. That kind of experience teaches you things you need to know.'' 

Morrissey's songs are simple, but powerful. This singer-songwriter instrumentally caresses his lyrics with a firm but gentle touch. 

''Less is more; it's an intuitive thing,'' said Morrissey. ''Even in the beginning, I knew to leave it alone when it was right.'' 

Early albums and unending one-nighters kept his fans in the Northeast satisfied. But his Grammy-nominated ''Friend of Mine'' (recorded in 1993 with Greg Brown) brought never-sought - and sometimes denied - stardom to Morrissey

''I don't think of myself that way (as a star),'' said Morrissey. ''I looked around at the Grammys and I was the only guy there I didn't recognize.'' 

His current album, ''You'll Never Get to Heaven,'' and his just-completed first novel, ''Edson,'' both capture Morrissey's essence, as he puts it: 

''I'm a storyteller lucky enough to have an audience that's willing to