Early Work 1986-1995 (Hieroglyph Records)
Part of You (Hieroglyph Records)
By Brian Arsenault
Singer-Songwriter and composer Rob Morsberger’s lyrics linger even if he can’t much longer. He has terminal brain cancer which, as he says, means:
Walking with “footsteps in the shadows . . . No light, only shade.”
When not much more can be expected from a tired love:
“Just be there to wake me up when I cry out in my sleep.”
When walking on the beach with one you love and watch the sand as the tide comes in:
“The waves erase every detail, driven by the wind blowing in your hair.”
And for those you treasure the most:
“This isn’t kindness, this is love.”
Some of this was written years ago, some only recently, but it all seems particularly poignant now.
I wanted to write about Rob Morsberger’s work now so that maybe a few more people will care about him and his music while he’s still here. Many already do.
If you are real lucky, you saw some of his recent tour dates. Let’s hope for some more.
Cancer may claim him some time in the not too distant future, but that stinking disease can’t claim his music. And in that way and through his beloved sons, he’ll live on.
His voice on the early stuff is less pleasing than on later work, but it’s expressive and compelling, as his lyrics always are. Here he gives us a bit of doo wop, zydeco, torch songs and plaintive ballads. As well as some angry images:
“The Dogs of Anger make a terrible sound . . . There is a killer instinct trying to break free.”
That could have been written only weeks, not decades, ago. Or maybe it’s that human nature in all its variations just doesn’t change.
Boones, our cat, only comes in to where I’m listening when a rare song plays. When she sits through it all, it’s really good. She entered and stayed for “Like/Dislike” from which the beach quote above comes.
“Everything comes down to what she likes and dislikes.”
I know. I keep quoting lyrics. This is a poet, folks, as well as a classically trained musician who has listened to everybody, really listened, be it Schubert, Dylan, Lennon or Patti Smith, with whom he has played. Playing and arranging for Patti would be enough for most of us.
The title song rises like a hymn and continues like a libretto. A familiar of the best of classical church music. If I tried to convey what he says herein to his son I would only diminish it. But you can hear it.
“Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” is remarkable. Do you know the story of Jacob? In our secular age, we forget that The Bible contains many marvelous tales and we fail to read them out of fear — of what, I don‘t know.
Jacob is the guy who grapples with an Angel of God all night until he finally gets a blessing and a pardon of his sins. Jacob just won’t let go. I think Rob is wrestling with the Angel that is his Music. Can God, any god, deny that?
“The Russian Cartographer” is about someone he shared a hospital room with and I know something about that. From a busted up biker who risked the wrath of the nurses to have a smoke, to a mad North African wandering the hallway looking for his damaged head, such people pass by and leave you to your imagination.
“Good Laugh” is delightful and heart wrenching at the same time. I will always hear his son’s laugh somewhere deep.
Actually, the preceding two sentences could suffice as my review of Part of You. There isn’t much else to say that matters.
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