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Dead Confederate carries the flag for a new variation on Southern rock

When he's asked to describe his home town of Augusta, Georgia, Dead Confederate singer/guitarist Hardy Morris responds with a single word: "Golf" — a reference to the Masters, a tournament that's defined the community since the 1930s. Still, Morris admits that even in his youth, the competition never interested him much. At least not until he figured out a way for it to help him realize his rock-and-roll dreams.

"If you go on practice days — I think they're different now, but they used to just give you stickers," he says. "So we would stand out front wearing preppy clothes, and as older folks would come out, we'd be like, 'I've never been to the Masters. I really want to see it.' And they'd go, 'Here you go. We're done for the day.' And they'd let us have their stickers...and we'd stick them on our stomach or whatever. We'd get six or eight of them and then turn around and sell them for thirty or forty bucks apiece." At the end of one especially successful session, he remembers going with his cousin to a nearby music store, where "I bought an amp and he bought a guitar."

Morris no longer has the amp; he dismisses it as "a piece of crap." Yet he never let go of his rock ambitions. During his high-school years, he connected with four locals who also preferred making noise to putting and chipping: bassist Brantley Senn, keyboardist John Watkins, guitarist Walker Howle and drummer Jason Scarboro. In the beginning, they played in a rough assemblage dubbed the Redbelly Band, but after Morris's graduation from the University of Georgia, the group got serious, relocating to Atlanta and christening themselves Dead Confederate. Two years later, they uprooted again and headed for Athens, a community that turned out to be more welcoming. "When a new band comes to town in Atlanta, it's like, 'Who the hell are these guys?'" Morris maintains. "In Athens, when a new band comes to town, the first thing everybody is going to do is go see them."

Dead Confederate eventually became the first group signed to former Capitol Records president Gary Gersh's TAO label. Wrecking Ball, the band's debut album for the imprint, is a heavy, feedback-drenched affair that finds Morris caterwauling over expressionistic tracks like "Flesh Colored Canvas," which runs more than twelve minutes. The results have earned Dead Confederate raves from publications like Rolling Stone and Spin, if not a life-changing amount of folding green. Nevertheless, Morris is dedicated to the project whether it hits commercially or not. In his words, "There's no other options.

Except maybe that Masters sticker scam.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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