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Kate Morrissey's bigger picture
Athens-based singer/songwriter adds a new dimension to her music


It wasn’t so long ago that singer/songwriter Kate Morrissey was playing shows all by her lonesome, standing at her electric piano and pouring out her soul with a velvety voice somewhere to the left of Tori Amos, to the right of Joni Mitchell, in a place where Laura Nyro and Alanis Morrisette sit a corner table over coffee and argue matters of the heart.

 These days, however, the South Dakota native is the centerpiece of a trio. Saturday at the Sentient Bean, Morrissey will be accompanied by Charles Harvey on acoustic bass and cello, and John Norris on drums and acoustic guitar.

“It’s such a thrill to be playing, and then all of a sudden to hear people come in and add these emotional heights that I never thought the music could get to,” Morrissey says. “It really is an astounding feeling to have two people who are there because they want to get the music out, too.

“And then to hear what they can do with it, that I couldn’t possibly do alone.”

 Five years ago, Morrissey and her husband Roger Stahl set down roots in Athens; they’d met in a Pennsylvania graduate school, and when Roger got a teaching gig at the University of Georgia, Kate decided to introduce her piano, and her satchel of songs, to an entirely new audience.

 “It’s a college town scene, so there’s always a lot of new blood pumping through the town,” she says. “There’s new energy and that sort of thing, that the students bring. In addition to that, there’s a core of really excellent musicians who are here and who stay here. It’s wonderful.”

 Wonderful, yes. Easy, no. Like most college towns, Athens is more conducive to alternative rock ‘n’ roll, heavy guitar stuff, than to passionate singer/songwriters.

 “There’s a big scene in Athens for bands and DJs, for people who are coming out to dance as opposed to coming to a listening room to listen to songwriting,” Morrissey explains. “But I realized that I was bringing something a little bit different to the table.

 “I like listening to the things that other people are doing. Eventually I feel like I sort of settled into my niche, and I’ve definitely been influenced by all of the music that’s going on here. But it was sort of a transition.”

 She’s independently released five CDs – only the newest one, “Land!,” features her bandmates Harvey and Norris.

 The combination of instruments, Morrissey admits, is changing the way she writes songs. “To have somebody who knows how to not only play an upright bass, but to bow it, and then the cello which adds a whole emotional dimension, was amazing,” she says. “And actually I’ve grown fond of the drums, too!

 “The rhythmic support has opened up a lot of potential. And also, the guys are just great musicians. They came from the jazz tradition, mostly, so they do some soloing. In that, it’s possible to hear a song from a new perspective, through someone else’s ears.”

 Kate Morrissey

Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22

Admission: Donations suggested

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