Hard to find an Americana artist who doesn't have a tragic backstory these days but John Murry's could take the biscuit. Literally everything went wrong for him but then...redemption! John meets the feller out of Cowboy Junkies who helps him put a band together and this is the result - a very personal document of a man's descent into despair. So tragic a documentary is currently been made of his life. Tissues out.
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In recent years alternative music - particularly in the confessional songwriter and Americana sector - has mirrored the X Factor in it's eagerness to publicise a tragic backstory. Week after week we read reams of press releases detailing divorces, overdoses and suicide attempts. John Murry could pretty much top the lot having been involved in all three. His last album 'The Graceless Age' came with stories of adoption and near death experience. Since then there have been further tales of divorce and the death of mentor Tim Mooney.
The latter name gives a clue to where Murry is coming from musically. He has something of the American Music Club/Mark Eitzel feel about his songs in that they are toughly confessional but at times not afraid to rock out. He had a gruff but emotional voice which on 'Wrong Man' has something of Springsteen's 'Nebraska' about it but either side are much more upbeat affairs which recall AMC ('Under A Darker Moon') and Richard Buckner ('Defacing Sunday Bulletins'). We are deep into Americana territory here but Murry can surprise with his prettiness - both 'Silver Or Lead' and 'Come Five and Twenty' have a softer approach with carefully detailed arrangements and sensitively sung tumbles of words.
Murry most recalls the solo Richard Thompson in that he uses his functional, rough hewn voice to paint tales of the underbelly that you need to immerse yourself in to pay dividends. The album isn't as bleak as the backstory suggests and I hope some of the calmness and peace that is evident in the record cuts through to Murry's troubled life.
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