Visiting planet Gurf has always been an enlightening experience. After all, this Gurf Morlix fellow ??? Buffalo born, Texas bred ??? has provided us with countless indelible musical moments in the last 40-plus years: his exemplary guitar and production work with Lucinda Williams; his instrumental accompaniment to artists ranging from Blaze Foley to Warren Zevon; his production of watermark albums for artists such as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen and Mary Gauthier ??? and, since 2000, a series of eight solo records that have a singular worldview and can be both harrowing and heartening, often at the same time.
Now, prepare yourself for ???The Soul And The Heal???. Gurf Morlix???s ninth album is another chapter in a songbook that pithily relates the human condition. But though Morlix???s signatures are still present on this masterstroke ??? lyrics that don???t waste a syllable, instrumentation without a spare note ??? there is also a hopefulness and vulnerability not always readily evident on his recent releases. The fact that ???The Soul And The Heal??? is pivotal for Gurf is immediately clear from the striking front cover image of a heart-shaped cherry with its pit exposed, and from the stark title that he says speaks to ???the healing of the soul from all the damage we inflict on ourselves???.
It would be too easy to attribute Gurf???s evolution to the fact that in February 2016 he suffered a heart attack while dead stopped in the fast lane, in a traffic jam, on his way to a gig. In fact these new songs were all written before this episode, from which he has fully recovered. But there???s no doubt the emotions stirred by the unexpected December 2014 passing of Gurf???s musical mate, rock keyboard legend Ian McLagan, contributed to the career pinnacle that ???The Soul And The Heal??? is for Morlix.
The album was recorded at his Rootball home studio. Morlix comes by his musical minimalism naturally: ???It???s the way my brain is wired. I like to hear everything clearly.??? It???s a solitary sound, different from the sonics he brought to his outside productions ??? but, as always, it???s anchored by Morlix???s sinewy, expressive guitar. The other constant is drummer Rick Richards ??? who shares Morlix???s straightforward aesthetic (and whose rhythms Gurf echoes with two foot drums during his almost 100 solo gigs a year).
This batch of songs yields the expected Morlix darkness and humor, but woven between are numbers imbued with a warm light. The call to positive action on ???Move Someone,??? the mindfulness of ???Right Now??? and the sensitive finale ???The Best We Can??? balance this focused collection, an album that manages to run the gamut of emotions without being cloying or obvious.
With ???The Soul And The Heal??? Morlix continues to create his own singular musical universe, but the yin and yang of his outlook has never been as in sync as it is now, making it even more inviting to join him on Planet Gurf.
Jody Denberg 2017
"The real thing, people." - Billboard
In 2017 American singer-songwriter Martin Sexton extends touring in support of his ninth studio release, Mixtape of the Open Road. The Wall Street Journal and CMT premiered tracks from the album that since garnered much critical acclaim.
"Outstanding taste in songwriting as well as a soul-marinated voice." - Rolling Stone
Syracuse native Sexton got his start singing in the streets and subways of Boston in the early '90s. Still fiercely independent and headlining venues from The Fillmore to Carnegie Hall, he has influenced a generation of contemporary artists. His songs have appeared in television series such as "Scrubs," "Parenthood," and "Masters of Sex" as well as numerous films, though it's his incendiary live show, honest lyrics, and vocal prowess that keep fans coming back for more.
Located on the lower level, The Hamilton Live is a state of the art music venue with tiered seating for up to 300 guests and standing receptions for up to 600 guests. It is the perfect spot for all day meetings, conferences, seated events, receptions, and live performances.
Interested in planning your own event? Visit http://www.thehamiltondc.com/restaurant/private-events
Slaid Cleaves spins stories with a novelist???s eye and a poet???s heart. Twenty years into his career, the celebrated songwriter???s Still Fighting the War spotlights an artist in peak form. Cleaves??? seamless new collection delivers vivid snapshots as wildly cinematic as they are carefully chiseled. Dress William Faulkner with faded jeans and a worn six-string for a good idea. ???Slaid???s a craftsman,??? says Terri Hendrix, who sings harmony on ???Texas Love Song.??? ???He goes about his songs like a woodworker.???
Accordingly, Cleaves??? earthy narratives stand oak strong. ???Men go off to war for a hundred reasons/But they all come home with the same demons,??? he sings on the album???s title track. ???Some you can keep at bay for a while/Some will pin you to the floor/You???ve been home for a couple of years now, buddy/But you???re still fighting the war.??? Few writers frame bruised souls as clearly. Fewer still deliver a punch with such striking immediacy.
???I started ???Still Fighting the War??? four years ago and originally each verse was a separate character,??? Cleaves explains. ???Each verse was about getting swindled. One was about the economy, one was about a returning veteran, one was about a broken-up couple. It was too cumbersome, so I focused in on the soldier. The key that made it all work came as I was talking to my friend and occasional co-writer, Ron Coy. A troubled Vietnam vet buddy of his had recently passed away. Ron said, ???All this time, it was like he was still fighting the war.??? I knew instantly that was the perfect way to summarize the song.???
Cleaves delivers equal measures of hope and resignation throughout this 2013 release as life lessons slide subtly through side doors. ???Normally when I start writing a new batch, a theme starts to emerge after three or four songs,??? says Cleaves, who built an unlikely success story from scratch after moving to Austin, Texas, from Maine two decades ago. ???This time around I thought, I???m just gonna write where the muse takes me and each song will be its own thing. So I ended up with a CD that has a bit more variety on it compared to my previous releases. Half the songs are about struggle and perseverance and half are all over the place, some tongue-in-cheek stuff, a gospel song, a Texas pride song.???
Witness deft wordplay on the latter: ???Your wit???s as sharp as a prickly pear/The sun shines in your golden hair/Your smile hits me right in the solar plexus,??? Cleaves sings with a wink in ???Texas Love Song.??? ???Skin as soft as early morning rain/Temper like a Gulf Coast hurricane/I love you even more than I love Texas.??? ???Originally, the phrase was ???I love you almost as much as I love Texas,?????? Cleaves says, ???because that's about as far as a true proud Texan will go. Then I realized that if I committed the sin of saying ???I love you even more than I love Texas,??? it trips off the tongue better. It was a fun little challenge to come up with so many rhymes for ???Texas.??????
Of course, Cleaves conquered the task. Longtime fans expect nothing less. After all, Still Fighting the War follows the razor sharp songwriter???s undeniable hat trick ??? Broke Down (2000), Wishbones (2004) and Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away (2009) ??? that established him as a singular storyteller. His golden key: effortlessly shading dark with light. Cue Cleaves??? excellent double-disc Sorrow & Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge for inarguable evidence (???Drinkin??? Days,??? ???Wishbones,??? ???Horseshoe Lounge???).
???You get a lot of the man behind the lyrics,??? Hendrix says. ???What you see with Slaid is what you get: He doesn???t have the eyes of a cynic. He has optimism about him through a realistic gaze and writes with a wise voice.??? The Kerrville Folk Festival recognized those intangible qualities long ago when Cleaves won its hallowed New Folk award in 1992. He???s doubled down ever since with literate story songs exponentially more mature and meaningful.
Consider one other new high water mark. ???But they figured it out/And shipped the elbow grease/Down to Mexico/And off to the Chinese,??? Cleaves sings on the haunting meditation ???Rust Belt Fields.??? ???And I learned a little something 'bout how things are/No one remembers your name just for working hard.??? Childhood friend Rod Picott co-wrote those potent lines - the duo has split pages on several indelible blue-collar vignettes over the years (???Broke Down,??? ???Sinner???s Prayer,??? ???Bring It On,??? ???Black T-shirt???).
???Slaid is my favorite co-writer,??? says Picott, who also co-wrote the new album???s standout ???Welding Burns.??? ???He???s a smart writer with a gift for wringing the most out of a melody. Slaid understands that the song has to rule. He's patient and unwavering in his pursuit of the best.??? Cleaves humbly accepts the praise. ???Despite the odds, through persistence and good fortune I've carved out a niche for myself,??? he says. ???You could say I have a ???Whim of Iron.???"