They say that it’s not the drug itself so much as the intimate, addicting act of inserting the needle into a vein over and over that will do you in. On Audition Tapes, T. Hardy Morris‘ voice is that needle: thin, mournful, and, at times, hard to bear. It’s familiar territory for the Dead Confederate front man, that playful duality between beauty and horror that are hallmarks of his songs. This go around Hardy has gone solo, trading in some of DC’s psychedelic sound for more twang and adding the talents of Thayer Sarrano to reinforce the heartache.
“Someone’s gotta save this town/ You set ’em up, I’ll knock ’em down,” he sings with a sense of unease in “OK Corral.” It’s a slow moving alt-country duet with Sarrano, filled with pedal steel and dreamy guitar. “Share the Needle” is both more country and more Dead Confederate-like than any other track on the record. Upbeat, slurry, and just ever so slightly out of place in an otherwise well-paced album, “Needle” acts as your rock ‘n’ roll flavor.
However, the most unique thing about this release is the accompanying slew of videos filmed across Georgia at locations the Georgia Trust has named “Places in Peril.” Morris takes us to visit the old state mental hospital, The Ritz Theatre, Capricorn Studios, and even Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens. All of these historic sites are in danger of disappearing. Ten percent of the proceeds from Audition Tapes go to the Trust’s fund for historic preservation.
It’s in this act that Morris taps into something inherently Southern. Here is the bitter South, the defeated South, the prideful and noble South, letting itself fade into ruins. While some things may be better forgotten, when we take the time to restore these places we give ourselves the opportunity to learn from the tragedies of the past. Do yourself a favor, go buy this album and listen to it this summer, around dusk, while staring into the darkening sky. Audition Tapes is the kind of drug you don’t get over easy, not that you’d want to try.