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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ROUTES & BRANCHES   
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
April 27, 2013
Scott Foley

One of the more curious albums from 2006 paired veteran avant Bob Frank with young Mississippi roots rocker John Murry.  Named World Without End, the cowriters penned rather traditional murder ballads that happened to be about more contemporary slayings.  Several months ago, Murry released his debut solo album, an even more harrowing affair called The Graceless Age.  Initially only available in Europe, upon first hearing praises for the record I said my prayers in hopes Murry would allow folks on this side of the pond a listen.  Depending on the interview, Murry tells fascinating stories of his young life:  He is a close relation to William Faulkner (whose long-ago recorded voice crackles behind one tune); he died of an overdose in San Francisco only to experience his own Lazarus moment of rebirth. 

Saran wrap and little colored balloons. A black nickel. A needle and a spoon.
You tell me this ain't what I am but this is what I do to warn your ghost away.

Luther Dickinson's high praise of Murry's collaboration with Frank is spot-on for the intensely personal songs on his debut:  “The lost cry out in song. Cold as an assassin's blade. Burning with the heat of a pistol's breath. Dark and deep as the grave. This recording is timeless as death. It will haunt your dreams and follow you down the shadow-filled street just out of sight."  Murry sings in a slurred baritone that resonates on a level somewhere between the junky hymns of Alejandro Escovedo and the American mythology of Springsteen.  But this is far from your grandpa's americana.  Some songs are almost unbearably sparse, with others slogging through thick levels of feedback, gospel backing vocals and the mumble of barely audible conversation.  World Without End's success lies largely in the beauty that frequently shines through the cracks of these bleak stories.  Murry admits that he is largely influenced by the literature of Faulkner and others, and that touchpoint is evident from start of finish here.  Whether these are intensely personal recollections or the ghosts of an overactive literary imagination, John Murry's Graceless Age is anything but.  

*  Pistol Annies, "Beige"  Hell On Heels  (Columbia, 11)
*  Kacey Musgraves, "Silver Lining"  Same Trailer Different Park  (Mercury, 13)
*  Jonny Fritz, "Wrong Crowd"  Dad Country  (ATO, 13)  D
*  Steve Earle, "Times Like This"  Songs For Slim  (New West, 13)  D
*  Langhorn Slim, "Electric Love Letter"  When the Sun's Gone Down  (Narnack, 05)
*  Jake Bugg, "Trouble Town"  Jake Bugg  (Mercury, 12)  D
*  Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, "Familiar Strangers"  Wreck & Ruin  (Sugar Hill, 12)
*  Sarah Gayle Meech, "One Good Thing"  One Good Thing  (Self, 12)
*  Willie Nelson, "I'll Keep On Loving You"  Let's Face the Music  (Columbia, 13)  D
*  Thom Chacon, "Life Beyond Here"  Thom Chacon  (Self, 13)  C
*  Shouting Matches, "I'll Be True"  Grownass Man  (BDC, 13)
*  Caitlin Cary, "Nursery Lie"  Waltzie  (Yep Roc, 00)
*  David Jacobs-Strain, "Try to Break My Heart"  Geneseo  (Self, 13)
*  Neko Case, "That's Who I Am"  Ghost Brothers of Darkland County  (Hear, 13)  D
*  Longest Day of the Year, "Birds Fly South" Turn Into the Ground  (Mulewax, 12)  C
*  David Mayfield, "Willow & the Babe"  Good Man Down  (Beautywood, 13)
*  Kill County, "My Friend Dirt"  Dust In Wire  (Self, 13)
*  Mount Moriah, "Rosemary"  Miracle Temple  (Merge, 13)
*  Son Volt, "Tears of Change"  Honky Tonk  (Rounder 13)
*  John Moreland, "100 Pages of Lies"  Earthbound Blues  (Memorial, 11)
*  Ten Foot Polecats, "Out in the Rain"  Undertow  (Self, 13)  D
*  Aoife O'Donovan, "Fire Engine"  Fossils  (Yep Roc, 13)  D
*  Rachel Brooke, "Only For You"  Killer's Dream  (Mal, 12)
^  John Murry, "Southern Sky"  Graceless Age  (Evangeline, 13)  D
*  Howlin' Brothers, "Big Time"  Howl  (Readymade, 13)
*  Marshall Chapman, "Love in the Wind"  Blaze of Glory  (Tall Girl, 13)  D
*  Brown Bird, "Bow For Blade"  Fits of Reason  (Supply & Demand, 13)
*  Elvis Costello, "I'm Your Toy"  Almost Blue  (CBS, 81)
*  Mud Blood & Beer, "Little Black Heart"  Sweet Life  (Self, 13)

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