FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Frank

Younger Than Yesterday: Ring

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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

theconnells_ring

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.

—John Murry

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Album: Ring
Artist: The Connells
Label: TVT Records
Year: 1993

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.

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John Murry’s ‘The Graceless Age’ is available now on Evangeline Recording Co (US) and Rubyworks (EU).

To read our previous articles on John Murry, please see HERE and HERE.

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http://www.theconnells.com
http://johnmurry.com

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The Graceless Age

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“I detested virtuosity and its attendant features from the very beginning, I detested above all appearing before the populace, I absolutely detested the applause, I couldn’t stand it, for years I didn’t know, is it the bad air of concert halls or the applause I can’t stand, or both, until I realized that I couldn’t stand virtuosity per se and especially not piano virtuosity. For I absolutely detested the public and everything that had to do with this public…”

(Thomas Bernhard, ‘The Loser’)

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry

johnmurry_portrait_craigcarry

“We’re all in this shit together”, John Murry tells his disciples at Whelans, asking us to move forward towards the stage. It is Sunday 27th January 2013. The setting is the upstairs venue at Whelans, on 25 Wexford Street, Dublin, Ireland.

This is John Murry’s first Irish show on his European tour promoting his debut solo album ‘The Graceless Age’, the heartbreaking masterpiece released last year on Bucketfull Of Brains. For the assembled fans, this was no ordinary gig though. We were gathered here to witness the mythical John Murry, the man behind this awe-inspiring record. In short, we were here to witness history.

Poignantly, on looking at the stage, the first thing to be noticed – on Murry’s fine array of guitars – was the name ‘Tim’ printed large, in black, on his electric guitar. Tim, of course, being the late great Tim Mooney (American Music Club), whose presence was clearly felt on this magical night. Mooney – John’s dear friend and compatriot – recorded and co-produced ‘The Graceless Age’, and was hugely influential in realizing the stunning arrangements and immaculate recording of the finished album.

To say, the evening in question was “highly anticipated” would be a gross understatement. This is the man who has previously “died”, only to survive, write an album about it, and create one of the most defining albums of recent times (and of all time) in the process. This is no false prophet. A wolf in sheep’s clothing Mr. John Murry certainly is not. The man – and the music – is as blood-red as the Mississippi clay itself. Amidst the (many) false prophets, John Murry is the true saviour.

Tonight, the stage was set for a piece of musical history. Onstage, Murry and band form a quartet, with keyboards, guitar and drums accompanying Murry’s haunting songs, each one dripping with emotion. From the opening ‘The Ballad Of The Pajama Kid’ we know we’re in for a magical night. The set, as well as drawing largely from ‘The Graceless Age’, would also feature two stunning new compositions (the latter performed on the encore with John solo on a twelve string acoustic), several of Murry and Bob Frank’s collaborative recordings, and incredible covers of both Sparklehorse and Townes Van Zandt.

“The air is filled with lead / lights are going down / they told me to forget you / they never told me how” Murry sings on ‘The Ballad Of The Pajama Kid’, drawing his audience into his incredible songbook. The songs on the night were performed as immaculately as one would expect. If one thing is absolutely certain about John Murry; it is the fact that he does not do things in half-measures; if things are going to be done, they’ll be done in all their glory – blood-spilled and all.

This was a performance highlighting the fine art of deconstruction. The intricate songs from ‘The Graceless Age’ would be taken apart (as if Murry was seeing what put them together in the first place) only before putting them back together with his own bare hands before our very eyes. ‘Southern Sky’ would be played in an almost funk or reggae fashion, the rhythm’s irresistible groove would never hide those fragile lyrics though: “I’ve got no past / there is no future / this sickness follows me around”. ‘California’ is played with even more charged feelings than on record; Both electric guitars form a field of reverb akin to Neil Young and Crazy Horse while Murry’s vocal delivery is reminiscent of Tom Waits at his most visceral as he snarls: “My soul has been bled / Don’t know for sure / if my heart is breaking / Is your’s breaking too?”

Later, Murry’s “Things We Lost In The Fire” – like on record – begins as a beautifully delicate lap-steel-accompanied country song (where Murry sings “I don’t need nobody / I’ll tear down this machine”) and later further electric guitars layer together to a stunning climax. The storming ‘Photograph’ concludes with an earth-shattering finale where crashing drums and feedback-heavy guitars recalls American Music Club at their brilliant best. To witness Murry and band perform Mark Linkous’s ‘Maria’s Little Elbows’ was a truly special and touching tribute to one of Murry’s musical heroes. Mark Linkous would indeed be a proud man. Who better to sing Linkous’s painful words of alienation than Murry:

“Loneliness
Loneliness
Loneliness
Oh
Came kicking at my door”

(—’Maria’s Little Elbows’, taken from the Sparklehorse album, ‘Good Morning Spider’, 1998)

The closer to the set (prior to a three-song encore) was ‘Little Colored Balloons’, a song so personal it feels almost wrong to listen to on record, not to mind in person. As Murry realizes that the audience knows what is in store, he says – reassuringly – “We’ll get through it okay” before launching into one of the most life-affirming songs ever conceived, a song which reveals more and more pain with every single listen; a song written about Murry’s overdose when he was found clinically dead:

“Nightmares in daylight! I’m stealing the birthright! Off 16th and Mission! I took an ambulance ride: they said I should’ve died, right there on 16th and Mission.”

Tonight the man behind the legend stepped onto the stage to prove to us that he does, in fact, exist – that these songs were in fact penned by the hand of a mortal. On ‘Little Colored Balloons’ Murry sings: “I know you don’t believe in magic / Nobody does anymore.” Well, on the night of Sunday 27th January 2013, we can both safely say that magic indeed does exist. In the form of Mr. John Murry’s music.

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This was also our first time meeting John Murry in person, having been in contact with him since the release of ‘The Graceless Age’ last July. Too shy to meet him beforehand, our simple wish was to hand him a gift (a framed portrait, the scanned version accompanies this piece). Our intention was to leave the parcel at the merchandise table afterwards. But as fate would have it, John Murry walks across both our paths, he is now standing a couple feet away. We shyly introduce ourselves. He has indeed remembered us, we hug and hand him our picture; he opens it right there and then and hugs us once more; and amidst the following conversation we do indeed get to say what we wished most of all to tell him:

“Thank you. Thank you for your music.”

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“… Whatever condition we are in, we must always do what we want to do, and if we want to go on a journey, then we must do so and not worry about our condition, even if it’s the worst possible condition, because, if it is, we’re finished anyway, whether we go on the journey or not, and it’s better to die having made the journey we’re been longing for than to be stifled by our longing.” 

(―Thomas Bernhard, ‘Concrete’)

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‘The Graceless Age’ is out now on Bucketfull Of Brains (EU). In the U.S. Evangeline Recording Co. will release ‘The Graceless Age’ on March 5, 2013.  

For tour dates and further information please visit:

http://www.johnmurry.com/

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January 29, 2013 at 9:15 am