Americana singer-songwriter John Murry first came to my attention through his album of murder ballads with veteran folk act, Bob Frank. Which I enjoyed, immensely, plus their live work wasn’t bad either.
Now, four years on Murry has a solo record out. As before his work is wrapped or should I say, engulfed in darkness. Since the arrangements are heavily draped in murky and on occasions, mystical dark sounds. Produced by Tim Mooney (American Music Club) the record not only has Frank and Mooney join Murry but fellow singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet and Kevin Cubbins among others as he moves on through California (the album was recorded in San Francisco) and back down to his origins in Tupelo, Mississippi (‘Little Colored Balloons’) as he speaks of drugs and how bad choices are made. Performed to the accompaniment of piano and little else it is one of the easier songs to connect with. The instrumental side of the record is one of layers of guitars alongside electronic additions plus vocal harmonies as he stirs up a garage rock-like feel on the moody ‘Photograph’.
A distant relative of writer William Faulkner like many of the top writers Murry leaves a portion of the story for you to imagine yourself and play out how you see it. As in ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and as he speaks of mist settled ‘round this city ‘¿No ted a ganas de reir, Senor Malverde?’. While with lots of guitar distortion ‘Southern Sky’ muddles through. Muddle is how I feel Murry performs for he doesn’t do enough to raise the pulse rate. Nowhere near so when you take into account his talent and for me to suggest you spend your hard-earned money on his work he is going to have to do better than this.
Better than most we have ‘If I’m To Blame’ and the funky ‘Penny Nails’ (done to a pounding rhythm, female harmony vocals and brooding guitar). To close he chooses to revert to the simple sound of piano and a little percussion on ‘Thorn Tree In The Garden’. With a refined beauty obtained amidst tear-stained lyrics and the record's usual multi-layered production it is on of his better efforts.
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