Don Morrell,
After All These Years
(Gadfly, 1999)

After All These Years is the debut recording from Alaska-based singer-songwriter Don Morrell, but he is by no means a rookie. He is a veteran of the 1980s New York club scene, where he carved a reputation as a songwriter and guitarist. Morrell has a strong voice, a kind of classic rock 'n' roll country croon with an attitude simmering just below the surface. He rides the fence between country and rock very well, allowing himself to dive fully into country on songs like the twang-filled "Start All Over Again" and into rock on "It Ain't Paradise." Morrell's wife Linda, who also co-wrote "Start All Over Again" and the upbeat love song "Since Your Love Came Calling On Me," sings harmony on all but three tracks, adding interesting layers of sound.

The title track, co-written with Nashville heavy-hitter Kim Richey, is a whiskey-soaked love song with a very John Hiatt feel to it. On "I Turned My Back," Morrell sings about moving on and being positive about the future without being cliche, which is an impressive achievement. He proves himself a skilled storyteller with the tortured "I Have Friends (Who Are Never Coming Back)," about people who died too young. Deceptively simple lyrics are the key to a powerful message of loss and acceptance. He does tortured very well in "Looks Like This Time It's Over," a song about on again/off again relationships that he co-wrote with Billy Bremner, and on "Learning To Live With Living Without You," co-written with Tim Wagoner. The record ends on a very strong note with "Roadside Cross," a soft-spoken anti-drunk driving song. Morrell takes on the voice of a man who lays dying, thinking of the ones he's left behind.

After All These Years is not especially original, but it's not exactly like all the other stuff either. It's one of those records that will keep you singing along, even if you don't know quite why.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]

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