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Kelly Morris – Underground Voice of the Carolinas

Kelly Morris of The Mobros, live at the Recovery Room Tavern. Photo by Ally Roland.

Today is the birthday of one of Charleston’s very finest musicians, Kelly Morris. In this article, we’ll review some of Kelly’s ventures so far this winter, and finish with a top 5 tracklist from his extensive catalog. 

Earlier this month, on the unassuming date of Tuesday, January 16th, the duo of brothers Kelly Morris and Patrick Morris tore up Rec Room alongside performances from psychedelic/soft rock jazzers Mantra and Slim S.O.U.L. The Mobros brought a classic garage rock sound that- to the unfamiliar- could’ve been easily mistaken for the likes of The White Stripes or Jeff Buckley.

They kicked off the night with killer blues rock riffs, dusting off old melodies and revving them into fiery new sounds. The energy in the room was palpable as Kelly rained down screeching fuzzy-filled solos.

“Carrie Anne” was up next for the Morris Boys and it proved to be nothing short of electric. Goosebumps stood up in the crowd as Kelly’s voice rang out with the track’s namesake. Patrick Morris kept the groove steady with a powerful drum backing, leaning into the mic to provide us with some brotherly harmonies- something a la Ringo Starr.

Patrick Morris of The Mobros, live at the Recovery Room Tavern. Photo by Ally Roland.

On “Don’t You See,” the duo dove through more beautiful harmonies and even classical compositions on this indie rock epic. As they brought the roof down, youths danced on the Rec floor. 

The two have been holding down the rock scenes of Charleston, SC and Asheville, NC for some time now, branching off into their own projects such as KELLY (and duke of who knows where) and Patrick’s solo project, DONAWA.

Kelly’s been all over Charleston this winter. Back in December, there was a legendary 5 year reunion show for The Dumbest Kids In School on the 23rd (the day after guitarist Chase Heffron’s birthday and a great holiday Psycodelics show) at the Royal American in which Kelly doubled up, opening the show as KELLY and closing out as The Mobros with Patrick Morris.

KELLY performing “Bronx Romance” on the keys and guitar. Photo by Elliott Hay.
      Chase Heffron flying off the rails with The Dumbest Kids In School. Photo by Elliott Hay.
   The Mobros looking glorious as they rock out. Photo by Elliott Hay.
Kelly with Conner Fersner of the Dumbest Kids in School at The Royal American. Photo by Elliott Hay.

Jumping back to the present, Kelly performed at a house show just this past week alongside Chase Heffron and Ollie’s Alright. The performance included a newly written song, an ode to a lost friend. Kelly’s poignancy and verve make his songwriting an intimate experience to witness. Amidst his set was also a riveting cover of Jeff Buckley’s “So Real.” You’ll never hear a better impression.

And here was the last song of the show on 1/27, a classic performance of his star track “Bronx Romance.”

Kelly also gigs at the Loutrel in downtown Charleston every Friday night from 5-8 PM. I’d call it the best kept secret in town. It feels a little like sneaking into the coffee shop of the legendary Live at Sin-é recording. Bring a tip! He takes requests!

Photo by Elliott Hay

What an exciting winter it’s been, and there’s much more ahead for Kelly including rumors of an album. He’s spending his days performing and recording, keeping the iron hot. It’d be a good idea to keep an eye out on KELLY in 2024.

And now, as promised, here are my top 5 favorite songs from Kelly’s catalog.

1. KELLY – “Bronx Romance”

This was my song of the year for 2023. It’s blues rock and soul, something you can really feel. Read the full track review. Kelly also shared a story about the songwriting process of this track: after a long sleepless night in January he opened a window and the scent of star jasmine flooded the room. The smell unlocked tears and memories- from that point, the song seemed to write itself.

2. The Mobros – “Don’t You See”

What begins with tranquil singing soon takes grit with garagey rock riffs that build until they erupt. The beautiful brotherly harmonies on this track are inspired the 1969 track “When I Die” by Motherlode. There’s an awesome blend of influences that extends even to classical on the composition of this track that makes it remarkable.

3. Duke Of Who Knows Where – “Stay With Me”

A lesser known gem from Kelly Morris. “Stay With Me” has Kelly Morris diving headfirst through an acoustic ballad, chalk full of entwining vocal melodies and speedy guitar. The track is tender and intimate, telling a story of momentary peace and love, issuing a cry that it last.

4. The Mobros – “Carrie Anne”

“Carrie Anne” is a certified Mobros anthem, a banger if you will. The chorus is thrilling- spotlighting Kelly’s vocals in the ripping riffs that coincide them. Personally, this is always a highlight in a set from The Mobros.

5. The Mobros – “Magnolia Roses”

“Magnolia Roses” is a painting outlined by awesome guitar riffs, another pick from NCC’s song of the year list from 2023. This epic song stretches out 5 and a half minutes, traveling through a landscape of sonics brimming with majestic vocals. The track comes complete with a fresh new music video; check it out here.