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Russell Morris strikes a chord with Black and Blue Heart

After a stunning return to form with his highly acclaimed album trilogy, renowned Aussie songwriter Russell Morris is showing no signs of slowing down.

The trilogy which featured the ARIA award-winning Sharkmouth (2012), Van Diemen’s Land (2014) and Red Dirt, Red Heart (2018) rightly put the Real Thing hitmaker well and truly back on the quality Aussie songwriters radar.

Now Russell is back with album number 15 – Black and Blue Heart which continues the 70-year-old’s purple patch debuting at number 12 on the ARIA charts and number three on the Australian Artists Album chart.

Speaking to Newcastle Live Russell said the latest slab was a natural continuation of the blues-tinged trilogy.

“It’s a little bit of a left turn sonically because if I just released another blues album I think it would be a bit monotonous,” he said.

“This album is I guess a bit of a bridge between that rootsy-blues stuff and the kind of stuff I was doing earlier on in my career.”

Russell enlisted the services of Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning and famed producer Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine, Neil Young) to share production duties on the record, adding that the pair brought an organic air to proceedings.

“We wanted the sound to basically be five steps above a garage band,” Russell said. “We didn’t want to overthink it. Nick and Bernard were interested in capturing the sound as organically as possible and, in fact, a lot of the vocals on the record were done in one or two takes.”

This album is I guess a bit of a bridge between that rootsy-blues stuff and the kind of stuff I was doing earlier on in my career.

Russell Morris

Russell also assembled quite the “garage band” to bring this crop of songs to life – Dan Kelly on guitar, Declan Kelly on drums, Matt Englebrecht on bass (from Bernard’s touring band) and former Wolfmother keyboardist Ian Peres.

He said that he was blown away with the direction that the four talents brought to the tracks.

“I remember we were recording one song and Ian played this keyboard pass that just blew me away, but Nick said that it was just okay and asked Ian to try it again because it just wasn’t right,” Russell admitted.

“I was like: ‘are you serious? That was perfect.’ But then, Ian played it again and what he produced just made my jaw hit the floor.”

There’s no denying that with just genre-defining hits as The Real Thing and Wings of An Eagle under his belt, Russell has definitely made his mark on the Oz popular music landscape.

But how do terms like legend and icon sit with him?

“I try not to think about it,” he said.

“Musicians, artists, and performers are traditionally quite insecure creatures, and I was just talking about this with Ross Wilson the other day who said that even now he feels like someone is going to come up at a gig start pointing and saying ‘you’re a fake, you’re a fraud.”

“And for me, there always does seem to be a feeling of ‘am I getting away with this?’ So it’s kind of hard to think about my career in those terms. It’s nice that people think that, though.

Catch Russell Morris when he performs at Wests Nelson Bay on Saturday 13 July. Get your tickets here.

Written by Stephen Bisset