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November 6, 2016 @ 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm$15
The Sound of Infamous Integrity
Once, when asked by a promoter for a copy of his biography, Gurf Morlix responded with just two words, “legendary integrity.” He would later admit that his response was perhaps a bit pompous, “but true,” he added. “Well, half true anyway.” The story is a telling one, demonstrating not only Morlix’s directness, which is famous among his musical colleagues – or perhaps infamous, depending on who you ask – but also his dry sense of humor and no-bullshit approach to life, music, and the music business.
Had he sent the promoter a more traditional bio, it likely would have noted that Gurf was born in Lackawanna, New York (near Buffalo), saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, formed a band (in which Peter Case made his stage debut), moved to Austin to escape the cold and play music, befriended Blaze Foley and a bunch of other Austin characters, moved to Los Angeles, worked for more than a decade as Lucinda Williams’ guitarist, band-leader and backing vocalist, produced Lucinda’s acclaimed Sweet Old World and eponymous albums, famously left Lucinda, toured with Warren Zevon, moved back to Austin, produced a number of classic Americana albums you likely own if you are any kind of Americana music fan, played on many more albums you probably own if you fall into that category, got inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame, received the Americana Music Association’s “Instrumentalist of the Year” award, went on to make seven critically acclaimed albums of his own, and then toured the world supporting them. He now continues to play live, produce albums for the artists that move him, and make his own albums. He even goes fishing ever once in a while.
That’s the resume, but it’s Gurf’s integrity, combined his near innate sense of music and how to make it sound not just good, but great, that have attracted so many well-respected artists to work with him over the years – folks like Ian McLagan, Patty Griffin, Robert Earl Keen, Buddy Miller, Mary Gauthier, Tom Russell, Butch Hancock, Slaid Cleaves and Ray Wylie Hubbard, just to name a few. And, oh yeah, he can make nearly any instrument with strings either sing or growl, depending on the needs of the song, like no other musician out there.
Gurf’s eighth album, 2015’s Eatin’ At Me, kicks off with wailing guitars and an annual family car trip to “Dirty Ol’ Buffalo.” Never one to shy away from the gritty side of life, the portrait he paints of the rust belt city of his youth, with its rugged roads and smoky orange air, ain’t pretty, but it’s real and authentic to the core. Unlike the shiny city of today, all polished up with money and a thin coat of paint barely hiding the grease below, “Dirty Ol’ Buffalo” is the kind of place that stays with a person long after they’ve left.
The nine songs that follow on Eatin’ At Me have that same lasting quality and clearly come from a man who looks at life and the world around him, with all its grit and glory, unflinchingly. His songs tell tales of love and regret, happy memories and heartbreak, the kinds of things that stay will with a person, eating away at them, if allowed. What makes the songs unshakable is indeed Gurf’s “legendary integrity,” the authenticity of the characters he introduces, the empathy and fearlessness with which their stories are told, and the care with which the songs are made. No word, no note, is out of place, and like the many well-known and well-loved albums he’s produced and played on, Gurf’s own records are infused with his trademark grit and muddy groove resulting in quality that’s so real, listeners will feel it in their bones. Indeed, it’s the kind of album that stays with a person long after they’ve listened.
GURF’S MISSION STATEMENT – such as it is
OK, here’s the deal – My new album is out now. It’s called EATIN’ AT ME. It has a bunch of really good songs, I think, and the greatest album cover the world has ever seen. In my opinion, anyways. Let me know what you think about that.
I am the chief strategist, here at Rootball Records. I’m the only strategist. I’m the label. I’m the distributor. I’m the manager. I’m the booking agent, and I’m the one that sweeps up. I’m in charge. Of all of it. This is a one man operation.
If you’d like to buy a copy of EATIN’ AT. ME, it’s easy. You can get one now. Signed. Cuz you’re special. CLICK HERE
That’s my DNA on the copies I mail out to anyone who orders them. Those are my fingerprint smudges next to where I personalized the copy especially for you. Whatever it was you asked me to write. Well, pretty much. Within reason.
I do all this because I care. I care about the songs, which are my babies. I care so much about the sound. I obsess over the recording process more than you will ever know. Every note that was played has been considered extensively, from every possible angle. I try to find the exact placement for every part. From side to side, in the listener’s head. From top to bottom. From front to back. This is all extremely important to me. I once spent an entire afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, staring at the 5 or so paintings I thought were the ones that transcended time and space, thinking about how the mixes of my songs, and the sound of the albums I produce, could somehow represent the depth I found in those works of art. I’m not sure I have approached this level of art, but I’m trying as hard as i can. This is how much I think about all of this.
I put as much attention into the songs. I used to just get ’em to the point where they pretty much rhymed, and didn’t sound stupid, and then I called ’em done. I have learned a lot from all the amazing songwriters I have worked with, over the years. I think the most important thing I learned is to understand when a song is finished, or not. Ready to be played in public. Or not. I’ve learned that if the creative spark is right, it’s worth however much time it takes to hammer the song into whatever shape it takes. Some of these songs I have been working on for 5 years or more. They are not ready until they are as good as I can possibly make ’em.
I put as much thought into the album cover art, and I am fairly well proud of all my covers. A couple were done with a time restriction, and weren’t quite as good as they might have been, because of that. That will never happen again. The main lesson I have learned in all my years in the music business is that there are no deadlines. The powers that will be impose them upon you, but they never really mean anything. Years of experience have taught me that as hard as anyone pushes for a deadline, the date always falls away, and ultimately means nothing. Every time. I love the sound that deadlines make, as they whoosh past my ears.
Most of all, I really do care about you, the listener. A phony sounding line, but I am serious. I don’t do this for me. Well, maybe a little, but mostly I do this for you. I’m nothing without you. Sounds trite, but it’s true. I have been out there, on the road, for the past 5 or 6 years, trying to connect with people who like my music. It keeps getting better. That’s all I need to carry on.
OK – here’s the deal. Again. If I’m playin’ somewhere near you, please make the effort to come see me. You’ll laugh, and you’ll cry. You’ll get a good show. You’ll be glad you came. If you know a place you think I should play, let me know. If you wanna have me play a house concert, or know someone that might want to host one, let me know. I want to play anywhere anyone wants to listen. If you like any of the albums I’ve produced for other artists, please help support them. We all need all the help we can get.