Described as singer-songwriter, street hustler, and spirit guide, Keith Morris just dropped an album called Psychopaths & Sycophants under the rubric Keith Morris & the Crooked Numbers. Initially, Morris wanted to title the album Trump Songs for Leonard Cohen, but Cohen’s estate negated the idea. Essentially, the album is a musical response to what Morris calls the “paradigm of fascism.”
“The album started as a response to what was going on nationally as we looked for shards of hope in this grim new era,” Morris says, “but everything took on a more personal meaning when boom, it all hit the fan in my beloved adopted hometown. It was all very surreal, and I’m proud of the way we have addressed it.”
Morris’ adopted hometown is the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, where in August 2017, the Unite the Right Nazi rally erupted violently, leading to the death of Heather Heyer.
Comprising nine tracks, the album opens with Cohen’s “The Future.” Morris’ version pulses with potent energy, as his talking/singing seethes with yummy Dylan-like flavors. The flow and scope of the tune, full of humming harmonics and creamy vocal harmonies, is immensely cogent.
On track on the album that I particularly enjoyed are “Thousand Mile Stairs,” a blues-filled, undulating ballad with gorgeous piano and smoldering tones from the steel guitar. The song gathers intensity and depth as it progresses, then drifts to a halt. “Canebrake,” another blues number, emanates heavy, dark colors oozing with viscous gloom and menace. A crying steel guitar infects the music with aching melancholy.
“Charlottesville by Name” rides a gentle acoustic guitar and alluring piano, as Morris’ tender voice floats overhead, exuding expressive timbres. The soft, mellow flow of “The Narcissist” is overwhelmingly beautiful because of its gliding feel and delicious buttery hues.
The album closes with another Cohen tune, “In My Secret Life,” featuring Morris’ dulcet voice, gleaming piano accents, and a throbbing resonant rhythm.
Psychopaths & Sycophants delivers marvelous melodies, luminous harmonies, and Morris’ lingering, moving tones. If you’re a fan of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, this is an album you definitely want to own.