Published on August 13th, 2013 | by Craig Silliphant0
John Murry – The Graceless Age
There’s a lot of vapid songwriting in popular music right now, replete with candy-coated sentiments and shallow observations about love. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and a dumb pop song is great for having fun on a Saturday night, but eventually, the party ends and life’s Sunday morning regrets pour in. Some albums are perfectly crafted to exploit the ache in the marrow of your bones, so inspired by real events that they can’t help but mine the depths of misery in the human soul, going for raw honesty rather than comically overwrought banjo breaks. John Murry’s The Graceless Age can be counted among these emotionally resonant records, capturing painful moments in time from his tragic last couple of years.
The backstory is that Murry went from Tupelo, Mississippi to San Francisco and became dependant on pills, which cost him his wife and daughter. This pushed him into the arms of heroin and homelessness and his self-medicated numbing of the pain almost cost him his life — he overdosed and very nearly died. Working with producer Tim Mooney (American Music Club drummer) Murry crafted this amazing album of dirges. Unfortunately, Mooney also passed away after the album was recorded.
“I don’t think that any of this would exist in the least if it weren’t for Tim, in any form,” says Murry. “It’s fair to say that [when we started working on the album], the condition that I was in was kind of beyond the condition that anyone would tolerate in any environment, and Tim was very much a lifeline and he was easily my best friend.”
These confessional songs took over four years to complete, and they cover ground like drugs, lost love, and near-death experiences with a genuine sadness. However, while the album is a dark patch of Americana, it’s also hopeful in moments. It makes Murry sound a lot older than he is, both in his lyrics and the sound of his voice, a gloomy, tired drawl. It’s not reinventing the genre by any means, but it’s expertly crafted from within it, from beautiful slide and fuzzy guitar accents to the expressively frank lyrics. He tells these stories so well, and yet is not asking us to feel sorry for him. Apparently, he’s related to William Faulkner, so perhaps brilliant writing flows through his family tree.
It may be a graceless age that we’re living in, but John Murry’s album is anything but. It’s not going to change your mind about Americana if you’re not a fan of the genre conventions, but if you like this kind of thing, congrats, you just stumbled upon the Americana album of the year.