Morrissey and Crimmins

A fruitful reunion
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  May 15, 2006

The parallel but separate career paths of New England folk icon Bill Morrissey and edgy political satirist Barry Crimmins, both of whom began their assent in Boston’s 1980s club scene, intersected for shows May 5 and 6 at Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway in Davis Square. It was a rare opportunity for both men, long-time friends, to share a bill, and one of the more promising unions of music and comedy that the intimate theater has been hosting.

On Friday, Morrissey, knees cocked back and singing with passion and vigor, unveiled a stack of new songs from his just-recorded 11th album. His deft open-tuned picking accompanied fresh material that floated on currents of wistfulness, love, and heartache. There were touching paeans to middle-aged romance and the moments of inarticulate silence that are part of longing. And his life-weathered voice and deep, ringing guitar tone caressed every emotional button along the way. He also mentioned that fellow songwriter Dave Alvin, a founder of the Blasters and occasional member of X and the Knitters, had joined him in the studio for the new album — which makes it that much more enticing.

Crimmins is a high-functioning humorist who thrives on improvisation and demands that his audience be well informed and smart enough to follow his rapid connections to world events and the absurd. His timing was a bit off that night, probably — to judge by our backstage conversation — because of the static of a high-pressure book deal he’s undertaken with the Air America radio network, for which he’s a staff writer. But he still hit brilliant highs, especially when powered by righteous indignation. “People say, ‘If you don’t like this country, why don’t you get out of it?’ ” he told the rapt crowd before delivering the punch line: “Well, I don’t want to be victimized by its foreign policy.” A rematch with these two veterans would be welcome.

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