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Russell Morris

With a staggering 50 year career and counting, Russell Morris returns with his brand new album, Black And Blue Heart (through Bloodlines/Liberation). Produced by the very highly regarded Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Powderfinger) alongside coproducer Bernard Fanning, Russell continues to find unique ways to challenge himself creatively. When Russell sent his Black And Blue Heart demos to Nick and Bernard, the two producers were blown away. They rang him back immediately, saying they could not stop listening to the songs. The two producers speed-dialled their studio ‘dream team’: guitarist Dan Kelly, drummer Declan Kelly and, from Fanning’s touring band, bassist Matt Englebrecht and former Wolfmother keyboard player Ian Peres. Perched between the tropical bush and panoramic ocean views of La Cueva Studios near Byron Bay, Black and Blue Heart found its rhythm fast. “I met Bernard [Fanning] a few years ago,” Russell Morris remembers. The Powderfinger frontman came backstage at one of the Australian rock legend’s countless gigs to pay his respects with a mutual friend. “But it wasn’t ‘til I moved up to Queensland last year that we sat down and started talking.” The warmer environs had already exerted a strange, organic influence on the songs Russell was writing in the wake of the platinum-selling, ARIA-winning blues-rock trilogy — Sharkmouth, Van Diemen’s Land, and Red Dirt Red Heart— that so spectacularly relaunched his career from 2012 onwards. “As soon as we heard the demos, the quality and grace of the songs was obvious immediately,” Fanning says of the album overall. “It sounded to me like the kind of music only someone with Russell’s backstory could make. He’s always been renowned for his incredible voice but it’s really come into its own now. His tone just communicates this unique life experience, so we just had to get that down.” Born and bred in the USA, Nick DiDia only learnt of Russell’s top-shelf pedigree during the recording process “I was hearing of this amazing Australian music history for the first time as we were making the record,” he says. It all started of course over 50 years ago when Russell Morris became the first Australian Artist to score consecutive number one singles with his first two releases. ‘The Real Thing’, which is one of the classic psychedelic singles of all time, and ‘Part Three Into Paper Walls’. Both reached #1 on the Australian Chart, and what followed has become one of the most remarkable stories in contemporary Australian music. Fast forward to October 2012, when Russell Morris began a trilogy of albums, each with a theme of Australian stories. The first, Sharkmouth, is a collection of tracks about the Australia of the 1920s and 1930s. The album went on to reach #6 on the ARIA Chart, and is certified platinum. Then came Van Diemen’s Land in 2014 which focused on significant events rather than the stories of individuals. From the prison ships that began Australia as a penal settlement, to the union strikes, the First and Second World Wars, Van Diemen’s Land covers a vast array of Australian history. And in 2015 Russell released Red Dirt – Red Heart, with amazing musical stories with unique Australian themes which won the coveted Best Blues And Roots Album at the 2016 ARIA Awards. And through it all, Russell remains one of the hardest working musicians in the country. For some Artists a new album can almost write itself after almost six decades on the road but it takes a rare combination of talent and circumstances to realise that vision as vividly and succinctly as Russell Morris does on Black And Blue Heart. AUSTRALIAN

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Profile for The Last Post Magazine

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