Gurf Morlix Finds The Present Tense
note: there are some formatting issues going on here that I haven't figured out...and the videos are not showing up in every browser.
by B.J. Huchtemann
There’s blood in the water and he’s put gasoline on the fire. Gurf Morlix serves up a moody, evocative collection of songs with the March release of Gurf Morlix Finds The Present Tense.
“I’m tryin’ to find the pattern / Tryin’ to make some sense / Feelin’ heavy vibrations / I find the present tense.”
Austin-based Morlix is introspective and aching, restless and somehow hopeful in these songs. The tone of the disc is often dark and mournful, despairing and confessional, but Morlix makes serious beauty from the mess and finds some glimmers of hope, as he sings on “Small Window:"
“I have thoughts I gotta rise above
but everything I did I did for love
It’s a small window I’m lookin’ through
It ain’t much of view
I don’t belong here
I believe that’s true
It’s a small window I’m lookin’ through
but sometimes I think I can see you.”
The opening track sets up a story of a man in prison and the dead man walking: “I ain’t got no life / It’s already been taken.” The character might be real, might be a metaphor for the plight of the protagonist in these songs: the man looking through the small window, but the man who might yet find a way out.
Despite the word present in the title, the songs seem to shift between reality and dreams or even nightmares, between yesterday and what might be today. Morlix seems to be exploring the shifting perceptions of reality and what we do and do not know about ourselves and our lovers. Check out “Series of Closin’ Doors.”
Likewise “Lookin’ for You” has lyrics that leave the listener to decide if the person at the center of the song is looking back, looking for someone he’s lost, or looking forward, looking for someone he hopes exists. The sexy, edgy sound of the track is as darkly seductive as the lyrics and to add to the ambiguity, it’s never quite clear if the lyric is “There’s nothing I CAN do” or “nothing I can’t do...” Either way, the person is driven by forces that seem beyond his control.
“Everything seems normal
Til you scratch away the film
First layer goes
And the blood begins to spill
Red stain spreadin’
Like a wild fire
My world’s crumblin’
With burnin’ desire
You know I like it
Dark and hot,
Torn and twisted
Tied in a knot
You’ve got the slant
You’ve got the skew
You know I want it
There’s nothing I can’t do
‘Keep looking for you.”
Gurf Morlix sings "Lookin' for You"
The arrangements are spare and shadowy, some with a late-night vibe like “These Are My Blues.” A personal favorite, this tune shimmers with echoing harmonica moans and wails, edgy percussion riffs, and is laced with deft B3 organ work and occasional fiddle.
Musical guests on the CD include three different B3 organ players, notably Ian McLagen, and the wonderful Eliza Gilkyson on harmonies.
Morlix’s literate, intelligent and perceptive lyrics, excellent guitar work and rugged, soulful vocals all make his work well worth seeking out. See gurfmorlix.com or iTunes for Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense (Rootball Records).
Morlix is set to apper in Omaha at Dean Dobmeier’s and Gary Grobeck’s Sunday Roadhouse on Tuesday, May 14, 7:30 p.m. See "Upcoming Shows" at sundayroadhouse.com.
The disc closes with “Empty Cup,” a co-write with Grant Peeples. The track is another personal favorite. Though not exactly hopeful, it is a commanding, haunting portrait of being caught inside the throes of unrequited love. Florida songwriter Peeples is one of my own personal discoveries of 2012. His version of the song appears on his 2011 Morlix-produced disc Okra & Ecclesiastes.
Here's Grant Peeples performing "Empty Cup"
Morlix also produced Peeples’ 2012 CD Prior Convictions. The two are scheduled to work on their third project for Peeples this fall. A Peeples’ sidebar, Grant has a brand new book of poetry and companion CD now available, “Grant’s Little Read Book of Poetry.” See grantpeeples.com to get this new release or any of Peeples’ fine work. (grantpeeples.com/shop/)
Morlix and Peeples are both highly recommended!
Gurf’s last personal project was Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream, a recording of his late friend Blaze Foley’s tunes, followed by a tour with filmmaker Kevin Triplett. The tour, which stopped in Omaha as part of Dean Dobmeier’s and Gary Grobeck’s Sunday Roadhouse series, included a screening of an abbreviated version of Triplett’s funny and touching film Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah (2011). See blazefoleymovie.com.
movie trailer: Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah
Foley’s romantic and inspiring song “If I Could Only Fly” was made famous by Merle Haggard and has been recorded by many artists, and his songs have been recorded by other notable musicians including Lyle Lovett, John Prine and Willie Nelson. You can find a good variety of videos from Morlix on this tour covering Foley’s songs on Youtube. Here are a couple of links:
Gurf Morlix sings Blaze Foley's songs
Bang, Bang, Bang on Present Tense reprises Foley’s tragic story, shot by a neighbor, while commenting on our current “gun carrying fools” culture.
Gurf sings Bang, Bang, Bang
Morlix’s career includes 11 years as Lucinda Williams’ guitarist and bandleader. Morlix was the producer for her self-titled Lucinda Williams and 1992’s Sweet Old World. He’s since produced a number of other artists including four albums for Ray Wylie Hubbard as well as working with Tom Russell, Butch Hancock and Hot Club of Cowtown.