By MIKE CHAIKEN
One decision could have made the difference as to whether or not Ken Will Morton’s album, “Alls’ Fair in Love and War” would ever have seen the light of day.
But that decision had nothing to do with the actual recording or songwriting.
And it was nothing that the former Manchester High School student had ever done.
Instead a fateful decision by his grandfather made it possible for Ken to be here.
In 1944, Ken explained in a phone interview from Athens, Ga., the circus was coming to Hartford. Ken’s father was a little kid. And Ken’s grandfather was going to take Ken’s eventual dad to see the show.
But circumstances intervened and that trip to see the circus on July 6, 1944 didn’t happen.
That performance is now known as the Great Circus fire of 1944, which is considered the worst circus disaster of all time. More than 165 people died when a blaze broke out in the big top.
Ken referred to his grandfather’s decision as a “twist of fate.” If his grandfather had taken his father to the fire, they could have been among the victims. And Ken—whose parents now live in Southington— wouldn’t be here today to write music and sing his song.
That fire inspired Ken’s song, “Little Miss 1565” about the little girl whose body was never claimed following the fire.
Although the story about his grandfather had been one Ken had grown up with, the song itself didn’t begin to take shape until he was playing around with some guitar chords that got him thinking. Then he read a book about the fire. From there, the words began to take shape.
“It just came together like that,” said Ken.
Typically, Ken said his songwriting reflects things in his life. But “Little Miss 1565” was an exercise in trying to write a song that really had nothing to do with him.
“All’s Fair in Love and War,” Ken’s 10th release, was recorded in a manner that’s a bit of a throwback to a day gone by. Ken recorded each track all the way through rather than patching together pieces or adding overdubs. It’s all captured in one take.
But he didn’t do this as some sort of intellectual exercise, he said. It was just a reflection of his relationship with technology. “It’s due to my ignorance. I’m sort of a Luddite with recording technology.”
The extent of his foray into recording technology was finding these recorded drum pattern loops on the internet, he said. That was his rhythm session on the 20 tracks. And it was just too hard to stop the patterns and line them up for any overdubs.
“I just had to do it straight through,” said Ken.
Listening to Ken, his music is reminiscent of John Hiatt or Steve Earle.
But those aren’t conscious allusions, said Ken. He said he can understand the comparison with Hiatt and he likes Earle. But he never tried to emulate them.
Instead, Ken said he’s a fan of the Replacements, and their leader Paul Westerburg. He also is a fan of jazz legend Billie Holiday and old blues records, “people who play music to purify their soul.”
Growing up in Connecticut had an influence on him. He said. “I grew up near the woods. My whole childhood, a lot of time was spent exploring woods. He also enjoyed the experience of New England winters. “It definitely shaped what I am.”
With a new album in hand, Ken said there is a possibility he will be hitting the road to promote it. “Things are in negotation.” He would like to play in Connecticut as well. But right now, nothing formal is in the works.
For more information about Ken Will Morton and his new album, “All’s Fair in Love and War,” visit KenWillMorton.com
By MIKE CHAIKEN