Banjo picker and bandleader Lynn Morris certainly did her fair share of plugging away before emerging in the 1990s as one of the most prominent female bluegrass artists of the era... A two-time champion of the National Banjo Championship held in Winfield, Kansas, Morris played in a number of regional bands throughout the 1970s and '80s, until at one point she found herself unable to find a band willing to let a "girl" musician join their club. Undaunted, she solved the problem by starting a band of her own, along with her husband, bassist Marshall Wilborn, and recorded several highly-regarded albums over the course of the next decade or so... Sadly, a stroke cut her performing career short in 2003, and although she's kept busy in her long recovery, Morris has been unable to tour or record since then. Here's a quick look at her work...
City Limits Bluegrass Band "Hello City Limits" (Biscuit City, 1975) (LP)
City Limits Bluegrass Band "Live! At the Oxford Hotel" (Biscuit City, 1976) (LP)
Whetstone Run "No Use Frettin' " (Red Dog Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Alan O'Bryant)
Bluegrass music from Pennsylvania... Whetstone Run was formed in the early 1970s and cycled through a wealth of East Coast and Midwestern talent. This edition of the band featured Lynn Morris on banjo and her future husband Marshall Wilborn on bass... They stayed with the band until 1986, when it dissolved, and a couple of years later co-founded the Lynn Morris Band, where she carved out a niche as one of bluegrass music's most prominent women...
Whetstone Run/Various Artists "LIVE IN HOLLAND, v.4" (Strictly Country, 1987) (LP)
Nice, unfussy performances from the Good Ol' Persons, High Country (featuring Butch Waller and Alan Senauke), Whetstone Run (Lynn Morris playing banjo, with Chris Jones on guitar) as well as singer Liz Meyer backed by various artsts and bands. A nice set of modest, soulful performances from several great bands.
Lynn Morris "The Lynn Morris Band" (Rounder, 1990)
Lynn Morris "The Bramble And The Rose" (Rounder, 1992)
Lynn Morris "Mama's Hand" (Rounder, 1995)
A perfect modern bluegrass album, with just the right combination of fancy picking and sweet heartsongs. Great choice of material, including some nice surprises, such covers of Beth Neilson Chapman's "Ain't Necessarily So," "Freight Train Blues," Wynn Stewart's oldie-but-goodie, "Wishful Thinking," and the title tune, which was written by Hazel Dickens. all the songs are bluegrassed-up in a flawless fashion, so that they sound like they were always part of the canon. Trading vocals with bassist Marshall Wilborn, Morris proves a most generous bandleader; banjoist Tom Adams helps anchor the band, but don't be decieved: Morris herself plunks a pretty mean banjer herself, including some wicked clawhammer on a tune or two. Any Lynn Morris album is worth picking up, but this one's a real doozie!
Lynn Morris "You'll Never Be The Sun" (Rounder, 1999)
Another sweet, lovely album, full of gentle heartsongs and nostalgia-drenched melodies. Recommended, though a little on the mellow side. Lynn Morris apparently can do no wrong!
Lynn Morris "Shape Of A Tear" (Rounder, 2003)
Wow! What a great record. Morris goes in for the same sort of flowery, modernized bluegrass lyrics as Alison Krauss, et al, but she keeps the music simple and down to earth, building the whole thing up from the ground, starting with her bouncy-yet-rootsy clawhammer banjo picking and capping it off with her straight-ahead vocals. Keeping the fancy footwork to a minimum, Morris and her modest quartet avoid the fusion-y musical fillips of many of their newgrass contemporaries, while still managing to push the music forward, and with plenty of bite. I was really impressed by this album... it's a winner! (Also, keep your ears open for the disc's hidden "mystery" track, a grassed-up PSA about spaying and neutering your pets (a topic close to Morris' heart - she is an animal welfare activist...) It'll be sure to bring a smile to all but the hardest hearts.)
Lynn Morris "Mel Bay Presents Clawhammer Banjo Taught By Lynn Morris, v.1" (Mel Bay Productions, 2007) (DVD)
Lynn Morris "Mel Bay Presents Clawhammer Banjo Taught By Lynn Morris, v.2" (Mel Bay Productions, 2009) (DVD)
Hick Music Index