John Murry – The Graceless Age

Every now and then an album comes along that blows me away, it doesn’t happen all that often anymore but it does still happen and ‘The Graceless Age’ falls firmly into that category. I didn’t really know much about John Murry before getting this record but I now feel I know him intimately and through this amazing album I can feel his pain, in the words of Bob Dylan there is definitely blood on the tracks along with sweat, tears and a whole host of other emotions. Right from the opener ‘The Ballad of the Pajama Kid’ with its Pearl Jam meets ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ mash up you can just tell this is going to be a special record and there is no better example of his self-confessional approach as the ten minute ‘Little Colored Balloons’ the sparse piano, cello and minimal gospel hues underpin the true story of Murry’s heroin overdose, he was dead for several minutes before being revived. It has shades of Jason Spaceman’s confessionals on ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space’ but whereas he went grand with big sounds and production Murry is content with a stripped bare approach letting the sordid tale and his cracked and bruised vocal speak for itself. The innocent title refers to the way the drug was dispensed in his home town in coloured balloons. Guitars, strings and Hammond organ are often layered throughout punctuated by sounds clipped from police broadcasts, radio shows and television, distant voices are present but lost in the compositions perhaps reflecting how Murry felt in the world at the time when he was in the throes of his addictions. Lyrically it is deep and dark but musically it can sound like R.E.M., Jim White, Sparklehorse and in its more atmospheric sections not too dissimilar to Smog. In fact across the ten songs there probably won’t be anything that will leap out as sounding all that new but it’s in the familiarity, warmth and clever construction that Murry can truly open up and take the listener on a journey into the darkest places a human can go and still survive. Like John Grant’s reinvention and subsequent rise on 2010 ‘Queen of Denmark’ it is my hope that enough people find this album and make sure it hits the end of year lists as high as it deserves. Four years in the making this is a remarkable record that has real heart just note that the heart in question is pretty black.

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