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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


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


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.


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.




Chosen One: John Murry

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Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

This is one of the edited portions of the audio recording of William Faulkner’s nobel prize acceptance speech beneath a musical break heard during John Murry’s solo album ‘The Graceless Age’. Like Faulkner, John Murry is a myth of the South. It’s in his blood. Murry is a distant relative of Faulkner. ‘The Graceless Age’ has such soul and spirit that evokes gut wrenching honesty, like no other.

Murry’s songs have been the soundtrack to my daily life since I first heard his song ‘Southern Sky’ on a recently released compilation. ‘The Graceless Age’ pours with emotion. Loss, heartache, pain, honesty, redemption pours from each song. It’s Murry’s album about facing and reconciling his demons. Songs of redemption akin to Johnny Cash. Songwriting akin to Bob Dylan. Folk and rock grandeur kindred to American Music Club and Sparklehorse. Songs of openness and beauty paralleled with Elliott Smith. ‘The Graceless Age’ is a rich musical tapestry that is very special indeed. This is the first solo album from the Tupelo, Mississippi singer-songwriter.

The album was four years in the making, produced by the late great Tim Mooney (American Music Club). Distorted feedback of electric guitar are the first sounds you hear on ‘The Graceless Age’ opener ‘The Ballad Of The Pajama Kid’. Gorgeous gospel vocals appear sharing the melody of Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’. Delicate lap steel, piano and drums guide the torchlight gospel beneath Murry’s poetry, ‘Lay me down in darkness, I pray your ghost to keep’. ‘The Ballad Of The Pajama Kid’ is not just a ballad, it’s a heartfelt prayer of hope. Welcome to ‘The Graceless Age’.

‘California’ consists of hypnotic guitar and drones of beautiful noise. Murry immigrated to Oakland, California seven years ago. The song’s lyrics are engaging, ‘I searched the sky line in vein for one goddamn star’ before Murry sings ‘I swear it ain’t you, it’s California’ on the song’s chorus. The deep bass groove and swirling guitars adds to the emotive vocals of Murry. The third track, ‘Little Colored Balloons’ is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. A lifetime’s worth of heartache and anguish is distilled in ten minutes. The song deals with Murry’s addiction, and a moment in his life where he was clinically dead after an overdose on 16th and Mission. ‘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’. The honesty and rawness of emotion evident here is profound. Music is rarely so alive like on ‘Little Colored Balloons’. Murry sings over a piano and cello accompaniment with a mesmerizing gospel vocal section. The lyrics of the chorus are: ‘Saran wrap and little colored balloons. A black nickel. A needle and a spoon./I know you don’t believe in magic. Nobody does. Not anymore.’ A person’s demons and nightmares are held to the light whereupon his demons are faced and ultimately reconciled. A song of immense power. Murry shouts ‘I still miss you so much. I still miss you so goddamn much’ on the outro beneath the swirling gospel vocals. One of the many utterly transcendent moments that graces the album.

‘Photograph’ is classic American Music Club. The dark lyrics are painted on a bright and melodic canvas of sound. ‘I’ve been unnamed since the day I was born, with a crest made of thorns, in a world of gunpowder’ evokes pain and torment. ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ is a country gem. A lap steel breathes deeply beneath Murry’s softly strummed acoustic guitar. Murry’s vocals are amazing. The song evolves into a rock outro of blazing guitars in the vein of Crazy Horse.

‘Southern Sky’ is a tapestry of sound; warm fuzz of guitars, percussion, drums and piano. The rise on the song’s chorus is perhaps my favourite moment of ‘The Graceless Age’. ‘She knows my face, my broken body and I still see it in her eyes’, Murry sings with female backing vocals. ‘The crucifix, the burned out bodies, underneath the southern sky’ evokes hell on earth and yet, ‘Southern Sky’ is the prayer of a better life. In Murry’s words, ‘The Graceless Age’ is about me. It’s about me and those I love’.

‘Penny Nails’ is an indie rock gem straight out of the Sparklehorse songbook. The song features the wonderful voice of Jana Misener. ‘This isn’t love, but I need it just the same’ is sung on the chorus creating an emotional climax complete with raging electric guitar solos. The album closer is ‘Thorntree In The Garden’ which is a wonderful cover version of the Bobby Whitlock song. A piano lament that is reminiscent of Cat Power at her best. The song is full of heartache. Murry sings ‘And if I never see her face again/never hold her hand/She’s in somebody’s arms and I know I’ll understand/But I miss her’. The song reminds me of Bob Dylan’s ‘Bucketful of Rain’ from ‘Blood On The Tracks’. Similar to ‘Bucketful of Rain’, ‘Thorntree In The Garden’ brings ‘The Graceless Age’ to a beautiful, delicate close. Murry’s falsetto of ‘Someday, some way’ are the final words from ‘The Graceless Age’. We are grateful for John Murry’s return.

‘The Graceless Age’ is out now on Bucketful of Brains.

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September 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm