Gurf Morlix - Eatin’ At Me
Master instrumentalist, producer and songwriter Gurf Morlix has been a major thread in the fabric of American roots music for over 30 years, mainly a recognised name on the scene for his work with such names as Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Slaid Cleaves, Buddy and Julie Miller, and Mary Gauthier. Hidden deep beneath the radar, he is also a highly skilled, and dare I say it, addictive, singer-songwriter in his own right. He doesn’t release too many albums, but when he does, you know damn well that the quality is going to be exemplary. That’s very much the case with EATIN’ AT ME, an album filled with surprising twists and turns, shadowy corners and broken dreams, the narrative thread running throughout this complex song cycle evokes the stark imagery and themes of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Comac McCarthy, while emerging from the musical lineage of Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Tom Waits and the like.
Working at his own pace outside of the recognised boundaries that restrict artistic creativity, Gurf’s idiosyncratic stories of desperation, desire and the vagaries of life paint sweeping and incisive song portraits of characters and stories that are universal in their scope and appeal. His weathered-sounding style draws you into both his own life and the lives of his characters. Soul-wrenchingly emotive exploring and revisiting personal experiences however painful, he sets out his stall with the opening Dirty Old Buffalo as he embarks on a journey of smoky memories that begins with childhood trips to the city in an old jalopy and takes us through adolescence to the darker side of the music business through to the sanitised commercialism of today. Set to a funereal rhythm in the relationship-tinged Grab The Wheel, he portrays the last steps in an impending break-up. With the brooding Elephant’s Graveyard he creates a whispered twilight haze that sets the record firmly in its realm of late night depressions, early morning blues and aimless heartbreak. His rich, rumbling voice qualifies as one of the wonders of the roots music world.
There’s something strange yet familiar about Blue Smoke—like an old photograph of someone you think you know, but don’t quite know them at all, yet just can’t let them go. It’s more memories of the past in 50 Years, a glance back at musical buddies, almost forgotten girls and the way that time slips by without us realising just where it and those friends have gone. Those moody numbers are balanced by more upbeat tunes like the vibrantly jangly The Dog I Am, the misfortune of falling in with Dinah, with the poison eyes, and another look back at the good ol’ days in the playful memoir Born In Lackawanna.
Gurf Morlix emotes from his soul and approaches his material with an authenticity and grit that harbours no pretence or fabrication. He plays most of the instruments with extra colouring from long-time friends Rick Richards (drums), Gene Elders (violin), Patterson Barrett (B3 organ) and Ray Bonneville (harmonica). He is in the moment and you are in it with him: love, desire, loss, the search for a sense of belonging, and a sense of place, all of which are core human emotions. EATIN’ AT ME also reflects something more: a shadow-meets-light intensity where regret and hope square off. Deep, dark, Americana with a decided edge is Gurf Morlix’s M.O. It’s real soul of humanity stuff that makes for compulsive listening.