It was a staggering 50 years ago when Russell Morris became the first time Australian artist to score consecutive number ones with his first two singles “The Real Thing” (one of the classic psychedelic singles of the 1960s) and “Part Three into Paper Walls”.
Of course what followed has been one of the most remarkable stories in contemporary Australian music.
Fast forward to October 2012 when Russell Morris released the first of his trilogy of Australian story albums. Sharkmouth is a collection of tracks about the Australian of the 1920s and 30s and includes songs about Phar Lap, Les Darcy and The Great Depression. The album featured appearances by Mark Lizotte, Troy Cassar-Daley and Renee Geyer, reaching No. 6 on the ARIA charts and certified platinum.
In April 2014, Morris released Van Diemen’s Land which focused on larger events rather than individuals, from the prison ships that began Australia as a penal settlement to the union strikes, the First and Second World Wars as well as paddle steamers on the Murray River. Van Diemen’s Land was nominated for Best Blues and Roots at the 2014 ARIA Awards, certified Gold sales and was the highest charting album of Russell’s 50-year career to date debuting at No.4 on the overall ARIA Charts.
In 2015, came Red Dirt – Red Heart, the third and final album in the trilogy. Stories of two bushrangers, a song about a beautiful town, a song about a loner, a recluse, and an escape artist, a snake and the Nullarbor Plain
The album peaked at 21 and went on to win Best Blues and Roots Album at the ARIA Music Awards of 2016.
Now in 2019 Russell continues to find unique ways to challenge himself creatively and collaborate with some of the best musical talent this country has to offer. Welcome Black And Blue Heart – the new album from Russell Morris produced by Nick DiDia and Bernard Fanning. Recorded in Nick’s Byron Bay studio over 5 days in December, the album will be released via Bloodlines on April 5.
“I’d met Bernard [Fanning] 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 two producers speed-dialled their dream studio team: guitarist Dan Kelly, drummer Declan Kelly and, from Fanning’s touring band, bassist Matt Englebrecht and keys 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.
“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.”