Don Morrell – Anchored down
Don Morrell threw in a few tear-jerkers on his recent CD, After All These Years. But heartfelt tunes such as “I Have Friends (Who Are Never Coming Back)” and “Roadside Cross”, though crowd-pleasers and radio-friendly, aren’t easy to perform now that Morrell has achieved a state of near-bliss.
A while back he relocated to Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife, Linda. Once settled in, he set up Toneworks Studio because he couldn’t find another one in town with the expertise he needed. And earlier this year he became a proud papa, again.
With all that going on, Morrell stays pretty close to home. He plays scattered acoustic sets around Anchorage but has put off touring. He has, however, recorded, engineered and produced more than 30 acts, including his latest project, former Blasters pianist Gene Taylor.
Morrell wrote and recorded most of the 11 tunes on After All These Years, released last fall on Gadfly Records, between 1987 and 1999 in New York City, Nashville and Florida. The last song, “Roadside Cross”, was recorded in Alaska, shortly before he mixed the whole album at Toneworks.
Morrell, a native of Long Island, New York, is working on two follow-up CDs, with 30 to 40 songs somewhere in progress. One project involves a lot of acoustic guitar with pedal-steel and B-3 organ tracks. “The one after that will be loud, twangy pop with deep testosterone,” he says.
Morrell quit school at age 14 and stuck out his thumb to tour the country. In 1975, he landed in New York City, and a year later began an apprenticeship recording and producing at Electric Ladyland Studio. He recalls with great fondness blowing up Jimi Hendrix’s amp — the musical highlight of his life.
In 1981, he formed the Meteors; “we were loud, fast and 4/4 time roots-rock,” he recalls. Eight years later, songwriter Otis Blackwell inspired Morrell to move to Nashville, where he started a production and publishing company. He also booked music for the Boardwalk Cafe and ran a weekly jam with former Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner and Bottle Rockets drummer Mark Ortmann.
Among the artists he produced during is Nashville tenure was his future wife Linda. They eventually moved to Florida to be close to her family and then to Anchorage, initially for a six-month stay that has now turned into four years. The city of 260,000 hardly has a cohesive music scene, but it affords a “bohemian poverty” lifestyle. It ain’t Nashville, Morrell acknowledges with a laugh, but as long as he has an airport nearby, the internet and FedEx, and advances in technology continue, he’s staying put.
“Heck,” he concludes, “I’m only a pastrami sandwich away from New York.”