Terrell Morris’s ‘Live From The Wayside’ is an Ode to the Concerts that Can't Be
Evan Dale // May 12, 2021
Through the isolation that the last year wrought on us all, it’s sometimes a reluctant thing to admit that beauty emerged and that – maybe above all else – many things were created. The stamp that the pandemic – through the loneliness of quarantine and the pain of loss – loss of life, loss of connection, loss of time – left on our collective subconscious, will forever leave a ghostly reminiscence in our minds when we see an abandoned building, a closed business, or an empty street. And yet, in the quiet empty that the last year or so brought in tow, clarity and calm, too, found their space. And in that clear-minded mellow also exists a beautiful stage. Need proof? Just tune into Terrell Morris’s new audiovisual curation: Live From The Wayside.
In the spirit of venue support à la #saveourstages, the Toronto artist builds out an immersive slice of lonesome pandemic creativity that not only highlights the range in his own stylistic transcendence, but also exhibits the range in his neighborhood’s intimate music venues. It’s a painfully personal exhibition that connects to us all through a vibrant relatability struck in the notion that most of those watching can also feel a sense of their own favorite local spots to catch a show through the curio detail of a little stage with a corner bar.
All alone, save for anywhere from one to four instrumentalists and the closing support of powerhouse vocalist, Adria Kain, Terrell Morris spends a smooth fifteen minutes across four of his favorite local stages as an homage to place, to people, and to the music that will eventually rekindle the two in confluence of one another. But for now, Live From The Wayside is also a memento of the times, and a perfect example of the beautiful things that were created during this secluded chapter in modern history.
‘Since we can’t have you out to see us, we brought some of the show to you.’
For his part, there has always been an elemental tone of relative isolation in the work of Terrell Morris. Maybe it’s the range of sounds that his own sound encapsulates. Maybe it’s because he’s from Toronto. But whatever it is, there is a certain something – a low-hanging fog – above his aesthetic gray area that spans the rapped and the sung, and that also breathes with the breeze of an emotional chill. Permanently tethered to a spectrum of emotion fit for rainy days, mellow moods, and introspection, his sound – especially that in the four selections he chooses for Live From The Wayside – is one of the few that could so vibrantly succeed on stage in an empty room as it could in a packed house. And that’s where the genius of the project begins.
Where it leads, however, is pulled from Lavender. His 2020 album also bleeds with the emotionality of quarantine. It was, after all, released during the wavering uncertainty of a raging pandemic and an oncoming Winter. But more than anything, Lavender is a thesis on the range that Terrell Morris boasts, putting on a display of the signature breadth in his many stylistic meanderings. He’s a lyrical rapper, poetic in his exploration of story and thematic discourse. He’s also an incredible vocalist, pushing through the distinctive rasp in his register to evoke those many emotional points along his creative spectrum. And apparently – by way of this project alone – he’s also vibrantly talented live – a prized trait of any artist hoping for their music to really and truly connect with those listening, watching.
In order in their appearance through Lavender, Live From The Wayside opens with the album’s opener: Winterfalls, and from the jump it’s obvious that just like Lavender, the project is a thought-out, run-on composition of sound and story. A stage light lifts showing two figures in frame, a saxophone blares with the greyscale texture of a cigar lounge in the 1940’s, and a melodic run turned analogue cypher draws instant attention. A minute-twenty escapes before anything more than the stage, the sax, and Terrell Morris work in cohesion. But when the beat does enter, it does nothing but bring another textured and necessary element of the show. A show is what Live From The Wayside is after all, and a minute-twenty in, that first drop takes us all back to our own local venues with our own local heroes mounting a creative exhibition that adjoins people and place through the prowess of poetry and the power of proper production. And though Terrell Morris is mostly alone up there, and though no one is in the crowd at The West-End’s Costume House, we’re there and the show is on.
In front of a pale blue light at Division 88, both Morris and a wildly talented multi-instrumentalist take us next through the hard-hitting anthemics of standout Lavender hit, ROXY. In front of a four-piece band at one of the most unique venues that not only Toronto, but frankly anywhere can probably offer (you’ll just have to watch to know what we’re talking about), Morris then brings the acoustic love of Play The Fool at SIDEWAYS (this one was recorded in 2019). And back to the socially distanced dark-room aesthetic of the pandemic, Morris, his instrumentally boundless fiend, a pianist, and Adria Kain close out the project with the emotional soul of Renaissance at The Rex.
Truthfully, Renaissance – for so many reasons – feels like the right place for this concert series to close out. A renaissance, after all, feels as though it’s already underway, propelled by an artistic flurry spurred by isolation and maybe just a little too much free time. A renaissance of place, of people, and of the music that will eventually rekindle their relationship with one another finds its home in projects like Live From The Wayside, which will forever bleed with the mark that the last year and more left on us all; but will also stand as a permanent exhibition to the beauty that wouldn’t have been possible without it.
A live EP, a concert at home, and a permanent exhibition of modern history’s loneliest moments, Terrell Morris’s Live From The Wayside is a must-watch for any fan of music and any fan simply excited to witness it live again.