FRIEND OF MINE: THE BILL MORRISSSEY CONCERT from Seacoast Online by J.L. Stevens (published on November 24, 2011)
Folk Singer Bill Morrissey sure had a lot of friends. And talented ones to boot.
Folk singer songwriter Bill Morrissey sure had a lot of friends. And talented ones to boot.Thirteen of those friends — some of folk music's richest — gathered Nov. 17 at Somerville Theatre in a concert to pay tribute to the New England songwriter who told singular life stories in each and every 3 minute song. Friend of Mine: The Bill Morrissey Tribute Concert, was filmed, and snippets are popping up on Youtube and Facebook, but here's a report, in the meantime.Bill Morrissey died July 23, 2011, in a Georgia motel room while playing on the road from his Tamworth home. Well before then he'd graced Newport's stage (and the Press Room and Stone Church), was nominated for a Grammy, got married and divorced (twice), made a music video (!) and shared a beer, wisdom and his wicked sense of humor with many. And there was that catalog of songs. There was that indeed. Most performers told a tale, performed one of Bill's songs and one of their own that they may have written for their friend, or that honored him in some way.Standouts of the night were one-time college comrade and roommate Cormac McCarthy singing a sweet rendition of "Small Town on the River," Bill's ode to Newmarket, N.H. Relative youngster Anais Mitchell did an endearing rendition of "Harry's Last Call." She won over many a new fan.Mark Erelli got the well earned right to sing Bill's most oft-requested song, "Birches" and let it be known that if anyone else had tried, he would have felled them. He also wrote a song about Bill, called "Milltowns," that I look forward to hearing again.David Johansen, of the New York Dolls, performed "Inside" to the capacity crowd, with achingly beautiful harmonica as he perched on his stool.While it's usually all about the music, there were some notable non-musical notes of the evening as well. Before, during intermission, and after the show, there were stills and footage of a young Bill Morrissey on the theater's big screen, including sadly absent friend Greg Brown (he had a performance booked). Audience members beat a path to the merchandise table during intermission to grab a copy of Morrissey's previously unreleased (in the U.S.) second novel, "Imaginary Runner." Outside, after the concert, the comedian Steven Wright stood in the road facing the theater, while someone handed out fliers to the music appreciative crowd for an upcoming Dan Hicks concert in Stratham.On a final note, another highlight of the tribute concert came from John Gorka, who after singing Morrissey's "She's that Kind of Mystery," sang a song for his friend, "A coda for Bill ("Don't Judge a Life by How It Ends")." The tribute concert took place a week shy of Morrissey's 60th birthday.J.L. Stevens, a fan since 1989, wishes to thank all of the performers, her dates for the evening, and Morrissey's second wife, Ellen Karas, for putting together one hell of a bittersweet concert.