“I never anticipated releasing an album during a pandemic, and the challenges that it presents,” says Cary Morin. Even though last year was a momentous one for the Colorado-based singer and songwriter, recording with a full band just outside of Maurice, LA at Dockside Studio for his new album was next to perfection. So perfect, in fact, that he called his upcoming album, out August 7, Dockside Saints.
“It cranked out dozens of Grammys,” says Morin of the studio where Dr. John and B.B. King once recorded. “A lot of the blues players from around the South have recorded there for years, and a lot of the notable performers from around New Orleans use that studio as their favorite base. The feel of the place is just amazing, and the players that were on this album are all local heroes.”
Within a year of recording, it seems like the world deflated around Morin following COVID-19. Isolated home in Fort Collins, CO, he misses the usual things like going to dinner with friends, but has been using this quarantine time wisely.
“We learned how to exist in a new kind of world,” says Morin. “I’m learning things that I didn’t know how to do before, and that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.” One of those things is live streaming, which is something Morin thought about doing the last couple of years but has had to tap into more to connect with fans in lieu of touring.
“We were always on tour, so it never occurred to me that it would be a useful thing,” says Morin. “After being forced into it, it is pretty useful. I think that when this is all over, we’ll probably do a combination of touring and then try and stream in our downtime.”
For Dockside Saints, Morin revisited some older songs, and after playing predominantly solo for years, wanted to record with a full band. “I used to play with a band for a lot of years, and since I’ve been just doing mainly solo shows, I’ve always got it in the back of my mind, ‘what would this song sound like with like a full band?’” he says. “I’ve made a lot of solo CDs—just voice and guitar—and I’ve found that really fascinating. I enjoy the process but every once in a while, I start thinking about presenting it in a different way with other players.”
Some of the 12 tracks are fictional, while others were born from life experience. Cajun blues beats fuse new single “Nobody Gotta Know,’ which finds Morin imaging a New Orleans musician playing around the city, and just living the band life.
“It was written as a fun, light hearted dance tune with a Southern New Orleans-style composition in mind,” says Morin. “As I was thinking about the album and all the different types of songs I wanted for it, I wanted some blues, some dance tunes, some spirituals, and some instrumentals, all with a southern feel. This one ended up being more of a dance track.”
Written at a cafe in Monopoli, Italy, Morin wrote the track while thinking of The French Quarter.
“I was sitting at a cafe and just looking at the architecture and the feel of that town reminded me of New Orleans and hanging out in the quarter,” says Morin. “So the song just developed from there.”
“Valley of the Chiefs,” is another song pulled from Morin’s 2018 release, When I Rise, which is more revealing story of his heritage, telling the story of his Native American naming ceremony. “It’s usually something that, in the old days, people used to write down or record to remember and preserve it,” says Morin. “The family will ask a family elder to name a child, and that usually happens around 2 or 3 years old. Then, that family elder will typically recount a story from their lifetime, and from that story comes the name for the child.”
Morin, who is of Crow Indian descent, had his story was told by his great grandmother when he was 3 or 4. At the time, she was 103 years old and shared a story about an event that took place when she was a teenager. “I think the guys in the band were really interested in the story,” says Morin. “And I think that affected how they performed the song the day we recorded that.”
Born in Billings, MT and raised in Great Falls, Morin fronted several bands before his solo career, including Atoll, which formed in 1989, as well as the Pura Fé Trio, before immersing himself in his solo career.
Typically, songs shift over time for Morin. Dockside Saints was just a natural evolution from his surrounding elements—of Louisiana—fusing some bluesy Zydeco and Creole folk concoctions with bassist Lee Allen Zeno, drummer Brian Brignac, and accordionist Corey Ledet, in addition to keyboardist Eric Adcock, Celeste Di Iorio on harmony vocals, Keith Blair and John Fohl on electric guitar, and Beau Thomas on fiddle.
“I spend a great deal of time with a guitar and going over new material and revisiting old materials,” he says. “So the old stuff kind of is always evolving and changing. I think guitar-wise, I’m always stumbling across stuff that I’ve never played.”
Other songs just evolve over time. “I’ll grab a device, my phone, or an iPad or something and record little snippets of things, so they don’t disappear, he says. “Year after year of doing my playing changes as time progresses, and the songs change, too. When I play those songs live, I think I’m a way different guitar player in a way—and a different singer—than when I recorded that.”
Morin adds “In that regard, I think the albums are sort of a snapshot of time of who I was, and the player that I was, at that time. I just keep trying to change and, and roll with whatever the world tells us.”