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Pauline Bellamy – Hinterland Artwork

Pauline bellamy ruruLate last year I was trying to figure out what image to put on the front of my new album, “Hinterland.” About that time, I was asked to play a fundraising concert for a Solomon Island flood relief fund that a friend was putting on. Included in the night were art exhibits, including the work of Dunedin’s Pauline Bellamy. I was immediately struck by the stark simplicity of Pauline’s work, and the way her etchings seemed to summon up the ghost of the wind. I asked her to do the album cover and to my very good fortune she agreed.

artwork_disc copy

My only creative direction to Pauline was that I was thinking of a morepork, or ruru (New Zealand’s native owl) for the cover – a reference to a lyric from “Remnants of Ruminants.” Pauline and her husband John have a house in St Bathans, up in Central Otago, and on her regular trips up there Pauline began painting the landscape around her. Painting the cover for my album grew into a run of work exploring the “Hinterland” theme, and the result was this beautiful series of paintings.

http://bellamysgallery.weebly.com/hinterland.html

It’s pretty thrilling for me to see another artist interpret the spirit of the Hinterland that inspired me, in a different medium, and to see that spirit captured so beautifully. When I saw all these paintings displayed at the Bellamy’s gallery, I felt like I could have chosen any one of them as the cover for my album

pauline bellame windmill

pauline bellamy house on loop

In a couple of weeks we are doing an album launch at Taste Merchants in Dunedin and some of these works will be on display, tastefully framed and available to purchase. (They are also available to purchase direct from Bellamy’s). I’m lucky enough to have the original “Hinterland”cover at home, something I will keep and treasure for the rest of my life. Thank you Pauline.

hinterland cover framed small

Remnants of Ruminants

My friend Mark Orton of Seeing Red Media just made this video for me in Central Otago. In it, I charge around in a leather jacket and lace-up gumboots and get to drive a cool-looking HQ Holden. I wrote this song a few years ago after a trip in my old 1978 Ford Cortina up to the top of the South Island, which I blogged about back in 2012 here.

Ruminants are animals that ferment their food in a series of stomachs before digesting it. The process requires regurgitation and re-chewing (“chewing the cud.”) They first appear in the fossil record as small forest-dwelling mammals in the Eocene, around 50 million years ago. Today there are around 200 ruminant species including deer, cattle, sheep, giraffes and antelopes. The presence of ruminants on the Eurasian continent about 9000 years ago allowed a number of species to be domesticated by humans and thus cattle, sheep and goats soon formed part of the basis for agricultural societies.

The ancestors of New Zealand’s first Maori inhabitants brought only one domesticated animal to New Zealand – the kuri, or Polynesian dog. New Zealand then was a land of birds – giant ratites called moa and other birds that filled every conceivable ecological niche. Unused to mammalian predators, this incredible avian fauna soon fell easy prey to hunting pressure, and were finally extirpated.

Europeans arrived in New Zealand a little over 200 years ago, bringing with them their domesticated ruminants, especially sheep. Their possession and knowledge of these animals allowed them to capitalize on the open grasslands and to profit from the land by growing huge amounts of meat and wool. The extinction of the moa and other birds had left a huge ecological void in the landscape that domestic and feral ruminants were able to capitalize on.

And so in the last two centuries we’ve seen progressive waves of ruminants sweep New Zealand  – great flocks of sheep, plagues of wild deer, and more recently almost 5 million dairy cows, upon which the country’s economy is now heavily dependent. The long-term sustainability of this kind of intensive land use is in real question.

A palaeontologist examining New Zealand’s fossil record in another million years will find a bizarre and dramatic sequence indeed – the rapid disappearance of a great avian megafauna, closely followed by a great cache of the bones of domesticated animals – remnants of ruminants by the millions. And then… who knows?

I wonder what will they make of it all?

Remnants of Ruminants

There’s an electric fence around my heart
It goes tick tick tick in the dark

Picking it up on the AM dial
 as I go driving
Through the ribcage of this land

Moving fast through frequencies
Headlights flickering in the poplar trees
Static from stars and small town bars
Lit up for Saturday night

We’ve got an Ice Age here with us
A continent of grass and mud
And remnants of ruminants

I’m driving up the coast to be with you love
To feel your warmth beside me

Something’s broke but I’ll fix it up you’ll see

And memories of sunken shores
The reefs beyond the kelp beds roar
The morepork in the milking shed’s
The last of his kind

(Chorus)

There’s an electric fence around my heart
It goes tick tick tick in the dark
Picking it up on the AM dial
As I go driving
Through the ribcage of this land

Moving fast through frequencies
Headlights flickering in the poplar trees
Static from stars and small town bars
Lit up for Saturday night

(Chorus)

Drums: Steve Hudson
Bass: John Dodd
Acoustic guitar: Bill Morris
Electric guitars: Joseph Hoskin
Dobro: John Egenes
Sound FX: Gunther Flutney

Hinemoa

Here’s a song I wrote last year, while teaching a class of film students about the history of film and television in New Zealand. I was inspired after learning of this country’s early cinema history and pioneers like Rudall Hayward, who produced a number of features in the first part of the 20th century.

New Zealand’s first feature film was “Hinemoa,” made by George Tarr in 1914. It told the legend of a wahine of that name and her love affair with Tutanekai on an island in Lake Rotorua.The film was shot over 8 days near Rotorua, with the entire cast being drawn from a local Maori choir. The film opened in the Lyric Theatre in Auckland during the first week of World War One before touring the country and being shown overseas.

Like many of New Zealand’s earliest films, “Hinemoa” has been lost; immolated, perished or simply misplaced. The silver nitrate prints of many old films like this have perished – some were even deliberately melted down to make other things. The only record we have of “Hinemoa” is a promotional poster, which features a picture of the lead actress, Hera Tawhai.

Video thanks to Steve Hillman and the students at Aoraki Polytechnic, Dunedin

Hinemoa_1914_still1

Hinemoa

Maybe her hair was dark and long
But who’ll ever know
now that she’s gone?

Maybe she kissed her leading man’s lips
As the credits rolled

But when the last reel flickered to its final frame
She just drifted away

And down came the curtain
And up went the lights
And the people stepped out
With stars in their eyes

And maybe they walked
Through the city that night
Still dancing on air

But when the last reel flickered to its final frame
She just drifted away

Maybe they vanished in a quick burst of flame
Or maybe time slowly stole them away
Maybe they crumbled into dust in a tin
Where no light gets in

But when the last reel flickered to its final frame
She just drifted away

Last night I dreamed
A forgotten scene
Last night I dreamed
You were back up on that screen

But you can’t believe everything you see
At the movies

AmericanaUK review

Posted on

Another nice review over at AmericanaUK.com

That’s two continents conquered, only three to go!

http://www.americana-uk.com/index.php/cd-reviews/item/bill-morris-hinterland

First Review – No Depression Magazine

Posted on

Really excited to get a great write up from John Apice at No Depression:

Album will be available online next week

 

http://nodepression.com/album-review/bill-morris-%E2%80%93-hinterland

 

New album, “Hinterland” imminent.

In the next few weeks ‘ll be releasing my new album, “Hinterland.” Keep an eye out for it – I’m thrilled with the work producer/engineer John Egenes and engineer Danny Buchanan have done to bring these songs to life and the amazing playing from everyone involved. I’m simultaneously releasing the album in Europe and will perform a string of New Zealand album launch dates later in the year. It’s hard to know what to do about an album launch and I have opted for a “soft launch,” and will be gradually feeding the album out to the world over the next few weeks in the hope that people might get a chance to have a good listen before I take the material around the country, probably about August or September.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the beautiful cover art, a painting by Pauline Bellamy of MacAndrew Bay in Dunedin..

Hinterland album cover artwork smalla

For more about Pauline and her family’s work, check out their gallery website..

http://bellamysgallery.weebly.com/

And if you haven’t already seen it, here’s the first single off the album. Video by Christopher Tegg

New Album Taking Shape!

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you know that there is a new album in the works! It’s being recorded at Albany Street studios in Dunedin. John Egenes is producing and its being recorded by Danny Buchanan. I’m very excited about how its coming together and loving working with these two. Keep an eye out later in the year.

Bill