I saw Bill Morrissey perform maybe 10 times over the past 15 years, which is to say, in no small way, that I'm new to his scene. In New Hampshire and New England, there are those who have appreciated his art for two or three decades. If Bill and his guitar and that voice of his showed up within two or three hours driving time, you could find these people waiting patiently for the first chord. I'd count my wife, the hula-hooping journalist J.L. Stevens, in this camp.
The Grammy-nominated musician was a colorful character. Friendly. Witty. Deep. Dark. Funny. And sad. Sad, as in taking "a borrowed .22" out back of the bar to relieve a sick dog's suffering (and more, from "These Cold Fingers"):
Everything slips through these cold fingers /like trying to hold water /trying to hold sand /close your eyes and make a wish/ and listen to the singer/one more round bartender, pour a double if you can.
His discography is really something. It has range. It has meat to it.
And still, Bill Morrissey's music is -- much like the man was -- immediately approachable. Tributes have already noted that he wrote of the human condition (and his own: he battled the drink, with a few losing seasons). He conveyed life's trials and her little victories that people everywhere can appreciate. But it definitely plucks away at the heart strings of anyone who has ever spent a winter in New Hampshire. He wrote and sang of small towns, mill work, generous bartenders (hopefully), variable love affairs, loss and redemption, fishing and ice fishing, a musician's dream heaven, and the wicked, beautiful nature of snow storms ("When it snows in Pantherville the road just disappears").
I could go on. But we've a dozen or more Bill Morrissey discs here that need spinning. Bill Morrissey's gone. His music? It remains essential. Time for another long listen. Time, as it were, for one more round, bartender.