Authenticity is important to most music fans and for good reason. If an artist asks for your time, attention, money and devotion, it seems reasonable to expect that the music they create is heartfelt and honest. Mississippi-born singer-songwriter John Murry is as emotionally bare and confessional as they come. He’s not trying to waste anyone’s time with false promises, least of all his own. As he has discovered through bitter experience, time is precious.
He first came to public attention via his co-writing of the World Without End with Bob Frank in 2006, in which Murry’s slurred Southern American tones added weight to the more spoken word approach of his colleague. At this early stage his aesthetic was clearly dark; the album was a collection of stark, humourless, murder ballads retelling lynchings, shootings and even the story of an adulterous woman blocked up in a chimney. Murry received positive words for his input to the record’s niche Americana, though the record’s impact was lessened by it being at odds with the Devendra Banhardt-led New Weird Americana. After this we heard nothing from Murry until 2012’s stunning The Graceless Age and it didn’t take much listening to the record to understand why.
Ten-minute centerpiece ‘Little Coloured Balloons’ tells the story of Murry’s heroin overdose from a first person perspective. The episode left him dead for several minutes and the song, with sparse cello and piano underpinning the horror, can’t be ignored. Despite the weight of the cathartic subject matter – the album also deals with his loss of family and home – it is never without hope. In fact, it’s a testament to Murry that The Graceless Age feels like a triumph of human spirit rather than bleak self pity. It was voted as one of MOJO’s top ten LPs of 2013 and has held great appeal for fans of John Grant or Springsteen’s solo material.
Brighton Noise caught Murry at an acoustic in-store at Resident Records last year after the most cursory of listens to The Graceless Age. We were so entranced by his rough edge/heart of gold presence and guitar playing talent that we attended his concert at Sticky Mike’s later that evening, which was one of the highlights of that year. There’s no reason to think that this visit to the deservedly bigger space at the Komedia should be any different.