The liner notes to T. Hardy Morris' third solo effort, 2018's Dude, the Obscure, includes a quote from Maurice Blanchot that begins, "Writing is anguish." To what extent this reflects Morris' creative process while making Dude, the Obscure is open to speculation, but the album doesn't sound like the work of someone who was having a wonderful time. The ragged, Neil Young-inspired tone of 2015's Drownin on a Mountaintop is gone, and has been replaced by a sound that's shadowy, spectral, and full of echoes, the product of late nights and a man alone with his troubled thoughts. Morris is in a downbeat but philosophical mood on these songs, and there's a loneliness reflected in tunes like "NY" and "Stage Names" that's palpable, while the thoughtful side of "Cheating Life, Living Death" and "Homemade Bliss" may feel somewhat less morose but falls well short of encouraging. If Morris was trying to conjure a dark night of the soul in the recording studio, he most certainly succeeded, and Dude, the Obscure succeeds on its own gloomy terms. Morris' vocals are eloquent in their expression of his most intimate musings, and the backing (which includes help from Matt Stoessel on pedal steel and Vanessa Carlton, of all people, on backing vocals) consistently delivers. Adam Landry, who produced and engineered the project as well as playing guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, has done a splendid job helping Morris realize this cycle of songs, and while one might hope Morris feels better the next time he decides to make a record, Dude, the Obscure shows that he gained something worthwhile during his journey through difficult times.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming