Younger Than Yesterday: Ring
The Tupelo, Mississippi-born songwriter John Murry — a blood relative to William Faulkner — released his solo debut ‘The Graceless Age’ in 2012 (initially via US label Bucketful Of Brains, subsequently via Evangeline Recording Co in 2013; and via Rubyworks in Europe, also in 2013). The album is as deeply affecting and genuinely life-affirming as one could possibly imagine: the album draws from Murry’s past experiences battling drug addiction (‘Little Coloured Balloons’ depicts Murry’s heroin overdose when he clinically died for several minutes) while haunting songs of fear, loss and alienation are imbued with a heartbreaking sense of perseverance, redemption and, ultimately, both forgiveness and hope. Prior to ‘The Graceless Age’, Murry also recorded with the highly influential veteran American songwriter Bob Frank; the resultant collaboration yielded ‘World Without End’ (2006), ‘The Gunplay EP’ (2007) and ‘BRINKLEY, ARK. and other assorted love songs’ (2009) released on Evangeline Records. ‘Califorlornia’, a brand new John Murry EP will be released on June 16 via Rubyworks.
Words: John Murry, Illustration: Craig Carry
When I was a kid there was a division that existed — and still does — between what Deep Southerners and the rest of the United States had access to musically. I was unaware of what I was exposed to at home; the grand tradition of a blues that might have been founded in the Delta but made it’s home in the Hill Country of Mississippi that I was raised in. There people like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and Kenny Brown and Otha Turner took essentially all of what the state of Mississippi had created and distilled it into a jump blues that played off of backbeats and dropped beats and ferociously wild slide guitar sounds. I used to stare at the hands of those men and others, like Cary Hudson, who married it to a native melancholic country feel at times or a Southern Rock indebted to the truer intents of that genres founders. I didn’t know at the time that I was blessed by the distance between Tupelo and Memphis; that I was quite literally watching something far more real and visceral than anything I’ve encountered since. Country music crafted by folks who moved to Nashville from God knows where had almost completely replaced the music of my childhood: the gospel songs my mother (quite out of tune) sang happily around the house, the Country radio that one could still trace back to The Grand Ol Opry, and the “oldies” stations that once filled the air with the sounds of Malaco and Muscle Shoals and Stax and Motown and Sun. All was replaced by “classic rock” and a new country music that more resembled “classic rock” than what we knew. I moved to Memphis and heard a great deal — too much almost — and was able to hear myself amongst the music I heard there. But before I left for Memphis, there were a few things that changed me completely.
I’m unable to pick a single record. But there was a record that I — on some visceral level — connected to and will unabashedly call genius. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, perhaps, changed everything for me. As did Joe Strummer and The Clash. But I was a kid first…. And being a kid, a disaffected one at that, I suppose, I heard a record that’s stayed with me for many, many years. One created by a pair of North Carolina attorneys (by trade) and their band. We didn’t have The Smiths. We had The Connells. ‘Ring’ might’ve made splashes in places, but all I knew were the lakes near my home. They’d play in Oxford, MS and I’d go — too young to get in but somehow still managing to. I felt surrounded by people who must not have paid much attention to their lyrics, fraternity members in pressed khaki pants drawn — I guess — to little more than distorted guitars and Peele Wimberley’s great drumming. It confused me; like watching men from the North take over Beale Street did later — me realizing hip hop was the blues of Memphis, of the new America. That changed me, too. So many things did. But I could hear myself in that band.
In songs like ‘New Boy’ and ‘Doin’ You’ and ‘’74-’75’. Production aesthetics didn’t matter, still don’t, when I hear those songs. I still know every word to every song. The melodies were symphonic. The lyrics made sense, even though I was too young to know how much sense they made: “Didn’t I say “sorry”? Didn’t I say “Dear”? Didn’t you consider? Didn’t I stand clear? Didn’t you say “new boy get down on your knees”? Didn’t I say “trying, I’m trying, I’m trying…” or “I wouldn’t bet the whale that I’d ever see a juvenile in your eyes like the one I see. No, I wouldn’t climb the heights thinking that I’d find a reason for honesty without even…. Doin’ you and being new upon it, seeing your fog and driving through, seeing you with your creature comforts, doin’ you is like doin’ time.”
I don’t know what or why or how come, but these songs resonated with me. I didn’t want to imitate them. I wanted to sing along. I wanted to cry. I still do every time I put the record on. And I don’t care. I played it for my nephew recently and he made me teach him how to play ‘’74-’75’ immediately. It’s still that affecting. It’s still that lost in time. Like Blue Mountain’s ‘Dog Days’, but just far away from home enough to feel like it could carry me away from where I was right then and there. Other records they created stayed with me, but ‘Ring’ came along at the right time, like penicillin. I don’t know that I learned anything from the record. Other than how to love a record despite it’s audience (or lack of?) and how to feel transported away from melancholy by melancholy.
Artist: The Connells
Label: TVT Records
Tracklist: Slackjawed; Carry My Picture; 74-75; Doin’ You; Find Out; Eyes On The Ground; Spiral; Hey You; New Boy; Disappointed; Burden; Any Day Now; Running Mary.
Personell: David Connell, Mike Connell, Mike Ayers, Doug MacMillan, Steve Potak, Steve Ritter.
John Murry’s ‘The Graceless Age’ is available now on Evangeline Recording Co (US) and Rubyworks (EU).