Kevin Morrow – Running Out Of The Black

Dermot Carmody

Back in the days when we had actual gigs with crowds and pints and no masks, many of you will have experienced Kevin Morrow live in his residencies at McCloskeys in Donnybrook or O’Reilly’s of Sandymount. We can’t tell you if or when you can enjoy Morrow’s eclectic musicianship in person again, but happily for us, he has recorded a beguiling bunch of his songs for us to take home and cherish in comfort and safety.

Listening to Morrow’s EP is like being handed a box containing precious fragments from his thoughts and memories and being invited to take a peek and share them with him. The collection of five original songs is unified by a kind of wistful project to capture ephemeral moments and people from the singer’s life and lend them persistence in song.
The title track, Running Out Of The Black, is highly appositie for the times that are in it, offering the promise that despite tough times, we will prevail and exit the black “into the sunlight.” Amen, Kevin.

The pretty plaintive tone of a trademark Harmonica line kicks off Harry’s Coming Back. The hooky chorus of this jaunty reminiscence was written while the singer duetted with his reflection in the kitchen as he washed the dishes!

More joyous reminiscence is in 1981, about Morrow’s memories of hanging out with friends in his youth in his native Holywood. County Down that is, of course, not LA. In contrast to the troubles we all think of as the backdrop the song celebrates “being young and foolish and indulging in all sorts of shenanigans,” as Kevin himself puts it. He does so with Paul Simon – esque success.

October Moon is a really pretty musical poem, which was inspired on a walk back from a gig at the aforementioned O’Reilly’s to the cottage in Donnybrook where Kevin lived at the time. A lovely evocation of an autumnal night time walk.
The closing track is a bittersweet thing, and very personal like the rest of the collection. It’s a song he promised he would write for a friend who used to drive the blues band that Morrow toured the Netherlands with in 1999. Kevin explains: “He later eloped on his motorcycle with his girlfriend to be married in Gretna Green. We lost contact for a few years. Sometime later he telephoned to tell me that his wife had died on their wedding anniversary – St Valentine’s Day. I told him I would write a song for him.”

Running Out Of The Black was recorded by Bill Shanley, who also provides multiple instruments in the nicely arranged songs. Kevin himself sings and plays acoustic guitar and of course harmonica. It’s a great introduction to Morrow’s classy musicianship and warm, sensitive qualities as a songwriter.

Kevin Morrow was raised four miles outside the city of Belfast in the coastal town of Holywood. His melody-driven song writing has evolved from many years with bands playing blues, jazz, country, rock, pop and folk.

In 1980, Kevin took on the mantle of singer with Gary Grattan’s Renegade, playing weekly residencies in Belfast and supporting bigger acts such as Wishbone Ash and Mama’s Boys.

After moving to Dublin, Kevin joined Pete McGowan’s Parchman Farm in 1995, holding down a Saturday night residency for some years in the renowned and now sadly missed Dublin music venue, JJ Smyth’s. International music festivals included performance tours of Finland, the Netherlands and the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival.

Six years on, Kevin joined Brian Downey’s Blues Up Front (rock/blues) as singer and harmonica player, leaving a couple of years later in 2004 to form his own west coast style blues band, Hollywood Slim & The Fat Cats. Leading his own blues outfit, the band played all major domestic music festivals from Kilkenny Rhythm & Roots to Cork Jazz. Three residencies a week in Dublin’s Burlington Hotel led to the formation of the Kevin Morrow Jazz Quartet, performing weekly at the hotel’s Saturday night Supper Club.

In addition to fronting the Hi Tones swing band, Kevin was a vocalist with the Mike Neilson led DIT Big Band, playing at the Derry and Cork Jazz festivals in 2011. Outside of festivals, the economic downturn in 2008 brought the demise of regular work for bands and a greater demand for solo acts followed. From 2009, Kevin has been performing solo regularly in Dublin venues, playing covers and original material.

Recorded and produced by Bill Shanley, Kevin’s debut EP, Running Out of the Black, is a collection of his own personal songs, drawn from an infusion of musical styles encountered along the way.

Running Out of the Black

  1. Running Out of the Black
    In life there are going to be dark times, but they won’t last. So ‘hang on to your hat’ until you’re back in the light. As George Harrison once said, “All things must pass”.
  2. Harry’s Coming Back
    I was looking for a chorus for verses that I had written. I tried a few but they didn’t work. Finally, I stumbled upon the chorus while catching my reflection in the kitchen window as I was washing the dishes.
  3. 1981
    When people think of 1981 in the north of Ireland, they might think of the hunger strikes but this is what myself and a bunch of lads were getting up to around that time… being young and foolish and indulging in all sorts of shenanigans.
  4. October Moon
    I wrote this on the walk home from my Saturday gig in O’Reilly’s in Sandymount to the little cottage in Donnybrook that we lived in. I recorded many ideas originally on my phone, then developed them in the kitchen on my porta-studio when the children were asleep at night.
  5. Your Shadow Will Always Be With Me
    This song is about a friend of mine who was the driver of the Blues band on our tour of The Netherlands in 1999. He later eloped on his motorcycle with his girlfriend to be married in Gretna Green. We lost contact for a few years. Sometime later he telephoned to tell me that his wife had died on their wedding anniversary – St Valentine’s Day.
    I told him I would write a song for him.

Digital EP available from Bandcamp at:
CD available from Freebird Records and Tower Records, Dublin. (more outlets to come)
Twitter: @KevinLadoMorrow