MELT INTO YOU – by Alan Cackett, 2024
The latest addition to Gurf Morlix’s hugely impressive body of work, MELT INTO YOU, is his 15th full-length studio album. By this point, most artists have long since run out of words to say or ways to say them. His longevity in the business speaks to his deep creative-well and his determined and inventive sonic exploration. Music, at its best, gives an opportunity to explore the questions that most haunt the human heart. The exploration becomes mutual, allowing both artist and listener to feel less alone. At this juncture, more than 20 years after he first established his listener base, Gurf has become renowned for playing a primitive, angsty, menacing form of Americana. This record is a complicated listening experience that successfully hones in on the essence of his source material while also serving as a logical thematic successor to his previous releases. Gurf’s brand of tetchy abrasion feels very of the moment—it sits comfortably alongside the music used in the Peaky Blinders TV series—but the integral point of difference is that he is an eerie conjuror in the midst of his angular noise. This music isn’t supposed to be mannered and reverent. It’s meant to be delivered from the soul, the bones, the dirt, the hands, the heart. It’s at its best when it’s dirty, raw, lowdown, at least just a little manic, unhinged. If you’re not lucky enough to catch it live in a roadside juke joint (which is less and less likely these days), it sounds best when it’s coming from another room on an old transistor radio barely tuned into the station, where the static is just as present as the music. Or creeping through the trees from an unknown direction on a moonlit night down a dark, lonely dirt road. Or maybe in a smoke-filled pool hall (very unlikely these days) where the longing, bluesy vocals and guitar are barely audible over the breaking of the balls and the clinking of the bottles. Failing those options, listen with headphones. In a dark room. With the volume turned up!
Mixing a roots rock sensibility with a touch of danger, Gurf stomps, hollers, moans and croons in a gravelly voice and plays notes on his guitar beyond the sensical or what’s appropriate, but that’s the beauty of his music. Switchblade Smile, is a propulsive rocker, in which he makes a romantic plea to an obstinate lover. His vocal is deeply branded with this song’s quirky vision, an abiding hope (heard in several neatly disguised sighs) of one day reaching a place where they will come together. The weird and sinister Melt Into You is full of devilish eroticism as Gurf firmly establishes himself as a razor-sharp chronicler of forbidden pleasure and hardboiled lust. He delivers In The Name Of Love. a richly detailed story of misery, with an unguarded, dark power, as he bemoans the futility of remaining in a slowly dying marriage. If you’re in need of a reminder that you’re not alone, and your misery needs company, this is it!
Beautiful Sad Face is the understated showstopper, disguised as a tender love song, but is actually the nostalgic aftershocks of a breakup that crawls deep into darkness, before finally finding some light in the melancholic memories. Then there’s the exotic Sand, with an Eastern soundscape wrapped around the thoughtfully philosophical lyrics; the downright hypnotic fit of paranoia on Last Days Of The Dinosaur, his sinister guitar distortion drives his vocals into reckless territory. Finally, he concludes with A Meaningless Life, a moving narrative that sums up how inconsequential our lives are. The song casually saunters towards a personal confessional that’ll leave you gasping for air. A stunning, often intense set, that this early in the year, is surely in the running for best Americana album of 2024.
Alan Cackett – alancackett.com
KISS OF THE DIAMONDBACK
From The Other Side Of The World
Gurf – I listened to your new album again today while driving.
Kiss Of The Diamondback is a slightly philosophical exercise for me, and I certainly mean that in a good way. Some songs are so personal that I almost feel like I’ve stepped into your house without knocking.
But then I realize that you actually invited me in.
Your songs are not the easy, pleasing kind, and I like that. It takes a deeper listen to get to the core of them, and taking time to listen is a healthy exercise in itself.
So you could say that I’ve been meditating on your songs a bit.
What I experience:
Less is more.
A heartfelt longing for peace of mind.
Recognition in seeing the beauty of imperfection and scars.
Subtle irony along with hard learned lessons in love.
Muddy and watery guitars that make me feel apropriatley uncomfortable.
Musings on transience and death.
Relief that someone on the other side of the planet feels things the same way I do.
Keep the brave and honest flag waving…
IMPOSSIBLE BLUE – 2019
Gurf Morlix is an artist whose songwriting, arrangements, and execution seem to get stronger with each album; quite an impressive feat since Gurf’s albums, for years, have been at such a high bar. IMPOSSIBLE BLUE is distinctive among Gurf’s recent albums because as strong as the prior albums are, this record probably contains the strongest song sequence of his records. In addition, Gurf is joined on this album by veteran keyboard player, Red Young, long-time drummer, Rick Richards, and Austin singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris on harmony vocals. Together, they create a tight, organic sound where each player pushes the overall sound further than it might otherwise be. Gurf and Young, in particular, have a chemistry on this album on guitar and organ, respectively, that really add to the strength and feel of these tunes.
There are multiple songs on this album that deliver knockout punches. A case in point is “2 Hearts Beating in Time”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of0BDK1vrag This song has a laid back but hypnotic vibe, powered by Rick Richard’s heartbeat-like drumming and Gurf’s unique guitar work. At its core, the song is about realizing that time is precious and making the most out of it, by doing something important: lying next to and breathing with someone you love. Pretty simple, but there’s magic in this song and somehow the feeling of life affirming, mystical shared breathing is captured in the lyric and music of this song. Another stand out song from the fist half of the album is “I’m a Ghost”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIiIEvpZDDo There’s some-thing about the sound of this song that’s really interesting; the song’s meter is slow, but Gurf and Rick Richards play subtle staccato notes/fills in the verses that almost emulate a string section. Lyrically, there’s a relationship that didn’t work out and the singer is no longer in the picture, and hence, is like a ghost. There’s talk of a crime scene and detective’s detecting without having clues. But you’re not sure if these are metaphors or real. The song is in a minor key with a really strong chorus, augmented by Jaimee Harris’ wonderful vocal harmonies: “Here stands a prisoner who committed no crime. There sits a judge wasting time. I can’t say nothin’, I can’t appear. I’m a ghost and I was never here.” There’s another song toward the end of the album, “I Saw You”, which also talks about a relationship which is over and a potential crime scene and a bullet. But again, you’re never sure if Gurf is talking metaphorically or literally. Its possible that these two songs are linked conceptually. Musically, they’re both killers, with “I Saw You” being one of four stand-out songs on the second half of the album. Needless to say, after the reflective vibe running throughout Gurf’s last album, THE SOUL AND THE HEAL, it appears that the body count is back up a bit on this new album.
IMPOSSIBLE BLUE is perfectly sequenced. To my ears, among its 9 songs, there seems to be a distinct side one and side two (If this album is out in vinyl, I haven’t seen it). I would say that side 1 is comprised of the first 5 songs. The leadoff, “Turpentine” is a rocker which talks about a temptingly attractive lady that you might nonetheless want to avoid. https://www.youtube.com/watch… The woman’s “voice is like honey from the hive”, her lips have a “blood red shine”, her breath smells like expensive wine, but her kisses “taste a little like turpentine”. Underlying the song, Gurf is doing all kinds of interesting distortive twists and turns on guitar. “My Heart Keeps Poundin’” is another rocker, with the great line, “War, peace, rock and roll, these are forces beyond our control” and the chorus, “my head is throbbin’, my world keeps wobblin’, all the alarms are soundin’. But somehow my heart keeps poundin’”. https://www.youtube.com/watch…The “side” ends with another bluesy shuffle, “Sliver of Light”. This is an interesting take on the relationship between musician and audience and the give and take they share on any given night.
IMPOSSIBLE BLUE is a strong album from the get-go. But there’s a special magic in its second half. Its the musical equivalent of four back-to-back home runs. The first, “Bottom of the Musquash River”, is a power chord epic about a river adventure gone bad.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQgIoKnF_lA The power chords signal that something formidable and ominous lies ahead. In the lyric, the singer’s significant other somehow goes overboard and to the bottom and the bubbles soon stop coming to the surface. If you’ve ever white water rafted or done a challenging canoe trip, you’ll feel the sense of impending danger as you hear Gurf singing the tale and describing paddling past “Hell’s Gate” and Bone Island.” The writing on this song is fantastic with lines like, “the current offers no condolence that my love lingers there”. Great vocal by Gurf on this one and throughout the rest of the album. The next song, “Spinnin’ Planet Blues” is another killer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW_gMrK3EpQIts a blues, an electric distant cousin in feel, to Neil Young’s “On the Beach” in which Gurf sings of being “an outcast, out here on the fringe, my existence is swinging on a rusty hinge.” As the song goes on you gotta think, is the song about a relationship gone bad, or a planet dealing with pollution, climate change, and other dangers? Powering the song is Gurf’s electric blues playing which thankfully, continues for an extended period and its interplay with Red Young’s great or-gan work, and Richards’ drumming. From here, a great electric mid-tempo tune, “I Saw You”, where Gurf and Red Young both shine and Young’s organ playing is given ample room to stretch out, totally enhancing this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch… This song has the kind of infectious melody line and chord structure that make you want to play air guitar and sing along with as it plays. “I Saw You” is instrumentally, rhythmically, and structurally awesome with Rick Richards’ cymbals crashing at just the right second and Red Young’s organ playing jaw droppingly strong. Its really a great ensemble sound. The album ends with a soft, reflective eulogy to a departed drummer, roommate, bandmate and friend, “Backbeat of the Dispossessed”.https://www.youtube.com/watch… The title of the album is delicately placed in this song. Its a touching look backward and to the present, hoping that the friend finally found peace. Great harmonies by Jaimee Harris here too.