John Murry: The Graceless Age (Universal)

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If I'm to Blame: John Murry
John Murry: The Graceless Age (Universal)

With all the high-profile, well-marketed albums around it's inevitable small players from darker corners go overlooked, but this extraordinary debut of original material by a Tupelo-born survivor deserves serious attention if damaged singer-songwriters have any appeal.

Somewhere between backroads alt.country, early Leonard Cohen and the storytelling of James McMurtry, The Graceless Age offers 10 songs which are alternately enchantingly bleak and melodic, understated but Bible black, and not an easy ride.

The songbirds have all broken their throats, the jury's guilty too, there's a needle and a spoon – but the arc of the album also breathes hope.

Even at 10 minutes Little Colored Balloons (which ends with an account of how he died of an OD in the back of an ambulance) will hold you every step and second right into its phone-call coda by his mother. Check the clip here.

Delivered by fuzzy electric and acoustic country guitars, old upright piano with lachrymose strings and scratchy electronica where required, the songs are framed in familiar styles.

But the key is Murry's tuneful if cracked baritone, and lyrics which which will grip you if recent Tom Waits and Springsteen, acoustic Nirvana and dark Southern literature are on your radar.

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Mike - Jul 2, 2013

Love this album. Initially tried to just buy the single, Little Colored Balloons, but iTunes made it part of the album buy only. VERY glad they did, as the whole album is great.

Jeremy - Jul 2, 2013

It will take a sublime album to knock this one off top spot in my house this year. The tale he tells may be dark, but the album feels so warm. It rocks, broods, soars, and even redeems. It seems to exude a love of music - eg the Bobby Whitlock cover, and the opening song that has to be a homage to Pearl Jam's Black and Dylan's Knocking On Heaven's Door. I am playing the lush, swirling Southern Sky about once a day - the key change near the end is worth the album price alone! Then there's the soulful female backing... you can tell I am totally immersed in this record!

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