Matt Morris has his share of Top 40 credentials: he has written songs for Kelly Clarkson (including her 2003 hit "Miss Independent"), Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake. Further, Morris' five-song EP Backstage at Bonnaroo and Other Acoustic Performances was released on Timberlake's Tennman label. But when it comes to music, trying to pigeonhole an artist can be a huge mistake -- and as it turns out, this 2008 release is a major departure from the Top 40-type material Morris has composed for other vocalists. Firmly planted in the world of folk-rock, adult alternative, and introspective singer/songwriters, Backstage at Bonnaroo and Other Acoustic Performances doesn't sound anything like Timberlake's recordings. Plus, the fact that Morris toured the United States as an opening act for Joan Osborne in 2008 -- not Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson, but Joan Osborne -- indicated that a singer/songwriter perspective would be prevailing on his own releases. Morris favors a bare-bones approach on this 21-minute disc; his spare backing consists of either acoustic guitar or acoustic piano. And he displays an intriguing variety of influences, ranging from Jeff Buckley and Jackson Browne to Tracy Chapman to Elton John and the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Morris, like Chapman, often brings R&B overtones to folk-rock and adult alternative, so although contemplative tracks such as "The Un-American," "Bloodline," and "Money" aren't R&B per se, they definitely contain hints of R&B. Of course, there are some Top 40 enthusiasts who will be disappointed that this EP doesn't sound anything like a Timberlake album. But from a folk-rock/adult alternative standpoint, Morris shows a fair amount of promise on Backstage at Bonnaroo and Other Acoustic Performances.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson