T. Hardy Morris / T. Hardy Morris & the Outfit

Audition Tapes

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Co-founder and member of the Southern psychedelic grunge group Dead Confederate and, more recently, the indie supergroup Diamond Rugs, Hardy Morris (or T. Hardy Morris, as he's listed here) obviously likes to stay busy, and while away from his other musical projects, he wrote and put together Audition Tapes, his first solo album. It's a haunting, atmospheric, cough syrup-paced gem that isn't exactly alternative country -- there's still plenty of Hardy's Southern grunge feel present -- but definitely falls into pedal steel guitar territory at times, if filtered through the ghosts of Mark Linkous and Alex Chilton. From the striking opener, "Lucky," through the tense "Disaster Proof" and the stark closing track, "Own Worst Enemy," Morris' tales of drugs, drink, depression, and general malaise are fascinating and solid, and if this isn't outlaw country grunge by definition, it's close. The title song, "Audition Tapes," is not only wonderfully realized, it's also a kind of template for this album, highlighting the way it was recorded, all hushed and intimate, with count-offs and small mistakes left in, all of which makes this set feel honest and real. Morris isn't about to abandon his other projects, and thankfully not, but this solo outing shows he is capable of branching off into some different territories, all without losing his own special feel. It's safe to say, he passed the audition.

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