Archive for the ‘Gurf Morlix’ Tag
A Blazing Gurf- Gurf Morlix & Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah– The Hideout, Red Deer June 12, 2011
A sixty-minute film to sum up a life is more than most of us will get, but it seems a bit inadequate for a life that was as obviously full as that lived by Blaze Foley.
Complemented by a superior set of lyric-centric post-hippie, country music from Gurf Morlix, for the past week Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah has been touring the roots venues of Alberta. Marred as it was this night by a sound system that seemed to be working against itself, the movie expanded on the many stories we’ve heard recently about the Texas songwriter who was killed in 1989.
Fifty or sixty like-minded folks- many devotees of Morlix, several others in attendance by little more than chance- gathered in a Gasoline Alley eatery along Alberta’s busiest highway this Sunday evening to watch a documentary about a singer most had never heard of a year ago. I didn’t know Blaze Foley, of course, but I can’t help but wonder what the might have thought about such an event. From what I have learned about the towering troubadour, I suppose he most likely would mutter, “Where the hell is Red Deer?”
To be featured this week at Toronto’s NXNE, Kevin Triplett’s Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah is an impressive creation. Interviews with family members- siblings, his mother- friends and songwriters- including Morlix, Mandy Mercier, Ky Hote and many others- his soul mate Sybil Rosen, as well as admirers including Merle Haggard place Blaze Foley’s seemingly contradictory behaviours in context. A defender of those facing injustices- a character trait that ultimately led to his death- had its foundation in the erratic and violent actions of his father, an abusive man according to Foley’s sister.
The many interviews weave into a solid fabric that tells Foley’s tale. Providing extra depth and insight are archival photos from throughout Foley’s life, handwritten lyrics, and brief bits of colourful animation. While the interviews provide the background and the visuals absorbing detail, the unearthed performances of Foley- in Austin television studios, on assorted stages, and on recordings- provide the substance. He was most obviously more than the drunken poet, in the words of Townes Van Zandt, “Who only gone crazy once. Decided to stay.”
Through the remembrances of those who knew him best, the film reveals Foley to have been both a self-saboteur and a victim of unparalleled circumstances. The stories told by Morlix about Foley during previous live shows sketched the outline- Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah completes the portrait.
Here’s a guy who seriously considered converting to Judaism while ordering sausage for breakfast. A man who lost one album’s master tapes when his car was broken into and hundreds of copies of another album to a raid by federal agents. Through no fault of his own, his most endearing- and enduring- song “If I Could Only Fly” was about the only song Willie Nelson recorded in the 80s that wasn’t a hit.
The missed opportunities and bad fortune are not unique to Foley, but they are amplified with the knowledge that he never got that next chance that might have turned out differently: the man made Van Zandt’s career trajectory appear comparatively well-executed. The documentary appeared to appeal equally to those who thought they knew most of the stories already and those who entered the roadhouse having never heard of Mike Fuller.
What did I take from the film? While I realize Blaze Foley wasn’t the greatest singer who ever darkened an Austin dive’s doorway, I came away with a greater appreciation for his gently awkward voice and finely crafted words. His first song- the first bleeding song the guy wrote- is as beautiful as anything I’ve heard. “Livin’ in the Woods in a Tree” is a personal song capturing his love for Sybil and their carefree life in a treehouse, but its images and sincerity provide universal appeal.
I’ve heard “If I Could Only Fly” sung by Foley (and others) any number of times, but the sparseness of the performance captured in Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah reveals an innocence of spirit that brings to mind Nick Drake at his most exposed. And I love the story shared about Foley helping Van Zandt get through “If I Needed You” one night on stage.
As stated earlier, it was unfortunate that a film that rivals Be Here to Love Me was provided an exhibition less than ideal. The sound was horrible, frequently rendering the artistry of Foley’s lyrics indiscernible. Audience members were leaning forward, searching for the nugget that was every word and were too frequently left wanting. While one appreciates the efforts it took to bring the production to the city, one hopes the film has a better fate elsewhere. It certainly deserves such.
Outside of a screening of Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah, the closest many of us will ever get experiencing Blaze Foley may be through an evening with Gurf Morlix. Morlix’s affection for his friend comes through in every conversation, and his performance in Red Deer on Sunday evening was certainly a suitable tribute.
Morlix performed about a dozen Foley songs in his hour-long set, each punctuated by his recollection of experiences with Foley starting in 1977. Several of the stories were poignant and all of them were humourous.
Having caught Morlix a couple times as both a sideman for and on a co-bill with Sam Baker, as well as fronting his own outfit at a Calgary fest a half-dozen years or more ago, I was very much looking forward to hearing him run through his interpretation of the Foley songbook.
He didn’t disappoint.
Even more than usual, Morlix’s guitar playing was spectacular, each note delicately but assuredly picked. The sound was significantly better for Morlix’s performance than it had been for the movie, and again the audience was hanging onto every word spoken and sang.
I’m not a Foley expert and I don’t know every one of his songs. Morlix’s renditions of “Clay Pigeons,” “For Anything Less,” and “Baby Can I Crawl Back to You” were quite impressive, equalling the performances contained on his tribute album Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream. “If I Could Only Fly” silenced the house. “Cold Cold World” brought the evening to a close on just the right notes, while Morlix’s own “Music You Mighta Made” contained clever echoes of Foley’s music…at least, to my ears.
As Morlix sang “Cold Cold World,” perspective was delivered. Had Blaze Foley not died in 1989, there is no telling what he might have accomplished. As past behaviour is most frequently the best indicator of future behaviour, Foley’s future- had he not stood up for his friend Concho- might not have been as rosy as some may like to imagine. Dying as Foley did short of his 40th birthday, we are left with a legacy of accomplishment magnified by its unrealized potential. But, imagine if it had turned out differently.
Maybe Blaze Foley would have stopped getting in his own way finally finding a modicum of success. Maybe Blaze Foley would be a household name outside of Austin and outside of select CKUA-listening Alberta homes. Maybe Blaze Foley would be as well-known as Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Maybe. But not likely.
A blazing grace, indeed.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
In today’s Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate I advance the local shows as usual and review the recent Gurf Morlix tribute to Blaze Foley. As previously mentioned on Fervor Coulee, Morlix is bringing his Foley tribute show to Red Deer’s The Hideout June 12.
To access the column, click on the link http://tinyurl.com/3b2gsbv and give it a gander.
Originally published in my Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate, May 20, 2011
Gurf Morlix Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream www.GoToAGig.com
If it were not for Gurf Morlix, most of us would not know of Blaze Foley and his incredible legacy of understated songs, many of which could be mistaken for less familiar offerings from the songbooks of Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt.
As much myth as legend, Foley has had songs written about him by Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams and he has been covered by Merle Haggard, John Prine, and others. Foley’s songs are sparse, matter-of-fact Texas poetry, alternating gentle romanticism with crude reality. Not long for this mortal coil, Foley checked out almost a decade before Van Zandt and left only a hodgepodge of recordings behind.
Over the past several years, Gurf Morlix has brought Blaze Foley’s name to prominence within Americana circles. Recently, Morlix released Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream, performing intense, low-key renditions handpicked from the Foley catalogue.
Morlix presents a balanced view of Foley’s music. The straightforward country request of “Baby Can I Crawl Back to You,” which opens the album, is offset by the realistic wistfulness of “Clay Pigeons” and the linguistic playfulness of “No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki.”
Having made his career as a sideman, Morlix is a more than capable front man; his voice isn’t pretty but is pure, imparting shades and textures where more flamboyant vocalists may falter communicating the melancholy and conflicted emotions of the songs. Late in the set, a trio of songs- “Small Town Hero,” “Rainbows and Ridges,” and “In the Misty Garden”/”I Shoulda Been Home with You”– fully expose the tortured intelligence and talents of Blaze Foley.
Obvious is the respect and loyalty Morlix holds for his friend Foley. He imparts enough personality to make the album his own, holding fast to the measure of the words and melodies as written by Foley.
When Morlix sings “Wherever I’m going is the same place I’ve been” in “Cold Cold World,” Morlix isn’t only singing the words as written, he is revealing the tortured soul that inhabits all of us.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
I don’t normally cut & paste press releases at Fervor Coulee. I try to post only when I have something semi-coherent to share (Like, the new Tommy Shaw album absolutely rocks), but will make an exception- Gurf brings Blaze to Red Deer in June: you read it here first…if you didn’t see it somewhere else already.
Gurf Morlix Blazes Across Alberta with Music… PLUS…
The Movie Documentary “Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah”
***Links to tickets & information at: www.gotoagig.com***
Tuesday June 7 Monarch Theatre – Medicine Hat (Co-Presented by The Medicine Hat Folk Club)
Wednesday June 8 Geomatic Attic – Lethbridge
Thursday June 9 Coleman – Blackbird Coffee House
Friday June 10 Canmore – Communitea Cafe
Saturday June 11 Haven Social Club – Edmonton
Sunday June 12 The Hideout – Red Deer
Monday June 13 Ironwood Stage & Grill – Calgary
- Gurf Morlix is VERY well known to Alberta audiences, and for some time now he has showcased the talents of his old friend Blaze Foley via storytelling and song. Gurf released his own “tribute” to Blaze called “Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream”, named for one of Blaze’s songs that Gurf covers there.
- Blaze, a colorful, but flawed character, was murdered in 1989 at the age of 39. Recording an album of Blaze’s music is something Gurf’s been wanting to do since Blaze died. Now is the time. Gurf knows that Blaze’s honest, heartfelt words will resonate with today’s audience.
Blaze is finally having the career he wanted, but unfortunately it has only been since his death that the likes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, John Prine and others have shone spotlights on songs such as “If I Could Only Fly”, “Clay Pigeons” and “Election Day”.
- Blaze was also an inspiration for other songwriters; Townes Van Zandt’s “Blaze’s Blues” and Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel” were both lovingly written about Blaze Foley.
Gurf wrote a while back: “Blaze Foley – soulful, passionate singer songwriter. Champion of the downtrodden. Friend of the working Girl. Truth seeker. Atmospheric disturbance. Tender caring person with a big ol’ bag of deep-rooted troubles stuffed down into one of his pockets. Blaze could cut right through the bullshit, or he could be the cause of it. The funniest person I ever met, and also the most tragic”……and Gurf Morlix is better equipped than most to tell the tales and sing the songs of Blaze Foley.
- Don’t miss your chance to see and hear him do just that during a unique evening that also includes a visual history of Blaze, the documentary “Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah.
- Kevin Triplett is a Filmmaker who has the grit and determination of a dog on a bone, as well as the patience of Job. After twelve years in the making, Kevin finally got to officially release his “labor-of-love” documentary movie about Blaze, “Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah” in February this year, right around the release date of Gurf’s CD.
- The documentary has been getting rave reviews, and gives a wonderful insight into the troubled talent that was Blaze Foley by people who knew and loved him. Tall tales and truisms will make you laugh and cry along the way.
Sharing the common bond of Blaze, Kevin & Gurf have been “gigging” together since February, with Kevin screening the documentary followed by a Q&A session, and afterwards there’s a whole set of Blaze songs performed by Gurf. Bring your own popcorn!
A more concise version of my Sam Baker/Gurf Morlix story has been posted to Country Standard Time at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/concertreview.asp?xid=497
One of the benefits of this blog is I get the opportunity to take second and third cracks at some of my pieces; if I’m not satisfied with how something is sitting, I can give it another try. In this case, the first version- posted below- went up pretty near as I wrote it in draft. This later version was revised several hours later when it occurred to me that Jeff, CST and its readers may be interested in the show. I took out some of the extraneous phrases and attempted to make the piece more global. I also tightened things up…considerably. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Gurf Morlix, Red Deer Feb. 14 photo courtesy Helge Nome
Sam Baker, Red Deer, Feb. 14 photo courtesy Helge Nome
Last evening in Red Deer, Sam Baker and Gurf Morlix continued their Freezin’ Our Butts Off February tour of Alberta. A sold-out Matchbox Theatre was the venue hosting the two Austin residents on Valentine’s Day night and the evening exceeded all expectations.
One could be forgiven (I hope since I was one of them) for having expected the evening to be a Sam Baker concert with accompaniment by Gurf Morlix. Instead the audience of just over one hundred was treated to a song swap that lasted almost two and a half hours, including the many stories and song introductions shared by both participants. Spontaneity was obvious at almost every turn. And since I went into the show with huge appreciation for Morlix, more so than even Baker, things worked out for me just fine. I also gained an even deeper understanding and appreciation for Baker.
I purposely didn’t take notes during the show, but the memories remain sharp more than a dozen hours later. With each of the singers sharing (I think) ten songs, most of the favourites were covered with a few surprises intermixed. The intimate venue revealed excellent sound and sightlines, well-living up to the reputation it has earned over the past two years. The only complaint could be that Baker’s guitar couldn’t be heard for the middle third of the show, the result of a forgotten pedal switch. This oversight simply allowed one to even more enjoy Morlix’s contributions to Baker’s songs.
While other Texas (and Texan-based) songwriters that I enjoy- Guy Clark, for example, or even Tom Russell and Morlix- seem to have more male-audience appeal, Baker has that mysterious and tortured poet-thing a-goin’ that attracts the ladies. His songs have qualities that appeal equally to the genders, but they seem to resonate emotionally and even romantically a bit more than other songwriters with women. This was obvious with the attention he received during the break and after the show, as well as in the number of heads cradled on partner’s shoulders during the concert.
Establishing that they would play their sad songs early, and the sadder ones later, the pair immediately connected with their audience. I enjoy Baker’s music every time I hear it on the radio or on disc, but I was a bit jaded after a less than satisfying Baker performance at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this past August. This time out, everything fired for Baker.
The expected songs were masterfully performed- “Juarez,” “Pony,” and “Orphan,” along with a note-perfect rendition of “Waves” late in the second set. Morlix’s fingerpicking on this final number was incredible- he just pulled us into the song. Baker kicked off the second set fulfilling a request for “Iron,” his finest song in my opinion. Also performed were “Boxes,” “Angel Hair,” and his closer, “Broken Fingers.” Prior to this, Baker made “Long Black Veil” all his own, changing the odd word here and there. By the time the scaffold was high, his phrasing had changed enough to make it a Baker song with all influence Cash or Lefty Frizzell may have imparted falling aside.
I left the venue more impressed by Morlix than I had anticipated, especially since my regard was already so significant. He did a couple Blaze Foley songs, including “Cold Cold World” and most of Last Exit to Happyland including the time-stopping “One More Second.” It was apparent the audience was not as familiar with Morlix as they were Baker, so songs like “Crossroads,” “She’s A River,” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans” were new to most. All were very well received. “Voice of Midnight” struck a powerful chord, not surprising given the date and “Madalyn’s Bones” from Diamonds to Dust allowed one to consider what one is leaving behind. Most unexpected was a tear-through of “I Fought the Law.” While Baker had an armful of requests, Morlix satisfied his single request for what he called his most pure song, “Dan Blocker.” This song (Thanks, by the way, Gurf!) caused the evening’s only uncomfortable moments as it was apparent- even after the introductory story about Scout camp- that the audience wasn’t sure what to make of this one, and perhaps kept expecting it to go somewhere. It didn’t of course, but that is kind of the point.
Closing with “The Last Time,” the pair left the stage forgoing the obligatory encore which would certainly have been appreciated by all in the audience.
An excellent evening of roots music in Red Deer, and those who skipped it for a late dinner or an evening of cuddling missed something special. One hopes that this successful performance will encourage the local promoter to continue to take chances on artists of this caliber.
I hope to link some pictures from the show in the next couple days, so check back if interested.
Baker and Morlix remain in Alberta for the next week; check http://www.sambakermusic.com/calendar.html or http://www.gurfmorlix.com/tour.html for details and venues.
Due to a miscommunication, my column scheduled for last week ran today. No big deal really as I was not advancing anything of a time-sensitive matter. However, since the column was submitted, a couple interesting shows have been added to the local roots music calendar.
This coming Friday, Dec. 18, a fundraiser for a few area charities including the food bank goes at The Hub downtown featuring a variety of acts- the only one I have nailed down is Will White with Byron Myhre. $10 at the door and I’ll try to find the entire slate. Also, in huge news, Sam Baker with Gurf Morlix will make a Valentine’s Day appearance at the Matchbox. I caught the pair at the Edmonton Folk Festival this summer, and I dare say Gurf almost overshadowed Sam. I have already reserved my tickets for that one. Also, bluesman Mark Sterling brings The Songs of John Lennon to the same venue March 6.
This week I reviewed two new albums, the Amchitka set from Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Phil Ochs and the 1965 live set from Pete Seeger.
Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Phil Ochs
A double-set documenting the 1970 Vancouver event ($3 a ticket!) that launched the endeavours of Greenpeace, those of a certain age are sure to find Amchitk fascinating.
Looking back, a very impressive lineup: Joni Mitchell at the peak of her powers, prior to going arty; James Taylor having just released his breakthrough Sweet Baby James album; and Phil Ochs, the poet prince of the Greenwich Village set.
Mitchell is more lighthearted than one might expect, cracking wise dropping a snippet of Bonie Maronie into Big Yellow Taxi, asking forgiveness to ‘putter around here a minute’ when she loses her way during For Free. Mitchell features a number of tunes from Ladies of the Canyon, and performs on guitar, piano, and dulcimer. Mr. Tambourine Man is just one of the delightful surprises within her thirty five-minute set, made more so when Taylor ambles in to bring it home.
Taylor sings from his first three albums, including tunes from the then unreleased Mud Slide Slim. Songs that would become standards- Carolina in My Mind, Something in the Way She Moves, Fire and Rain– resonate brightly almost forty years later.
At the time, Phil Ochs was as big a name within folk circles as Mitchell, lacking populist appeal perhaps but unrepentant in his convictions. A seven-minute rendition of Joe Hill is masterful, while I Ain’t Marching Anymore and Rhythms of Revolution reminds one of a time when it appeared music just may change the world. Throughout the set Ochs demonstrates that earnestness need not defeat entertainment.
As a sliver of folk-rock history, Amchitka (named for the Aleutian Island where U.S. nuclear bomb tests were protested by Greenpeace) captures a seminal moment in the development of the folk-rock, singer-songwriter era.
Devoid of the planned spontaneity such a benefit now requires, this set highlights a time when the music world seemed less like business and more like community.
Live in ’65
To be valued as true ‘folk music’ there needs to be more than an acoustic guitar or banjo and slightly off-key singing. An attempt to encourage social upheaval thorough a revolution inspired by music is at the core of folk music- whether challenging the structures of 18th century Britain or the constraints of 20th century America, the singer encouraged change.
Recorded in Pittsburgh in 1965, this set captures Pete Seeger at his storytelling and entertaining finest. His manner seems quite quaint more than forty years later; it is hard to imagine that politics and activism made him a target of government scrutiny. Yet his influence on those who would follow- from Bruce Springsteen (who rewrote He Lies in an American Land, included here) to Billy Bragg and Ani DiFranco- is obvious.
Among the 31 cuts included in this previously unreleased concert recording are Seeger standards including Turn! Turn! Turn!, Guantanamera, This Little Light of Mine, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, and Old Joe Clark. Less familiar and as such a little more interesting may be Peat Bog Soldiers with its roots in a Nazi concentration camp, Going Across the Mountain, and When I First Came to This Land. Lovely.