Tuesday, 29 June 2010

John Murry's The Graceless Age in the offing

Read a tweet from Chuck Prophet carrying the good news about John Murry having his new record completed.

Murry, who hails from Memphis, but now lives in San Francisco, used to play with Lucero and a few years back recorded a mighty album World Without End with another relocated Memphian Bob Frank. He was also centrally involved in the Waylon Jennings tribute Dreaming Waylon's Dreams.

There are now three tracks on John's website - 'California', 'Little Colored Balloons' and 'Ballad Of The Pajama Kid'. Keep an eye open for more and also check out his blog Pounding On The Black Notes

In BoB #71 I ran a short interview with John and Bob under the title of "We’re here to sing about killing people”. Here's a couple of reviews to give you a taste


Bob Frank was a coffee house singer in 60s Memphis and a friend of Jim Dickinson. His take on ‘Wild Bill Jones’ appeared on Dickinson’s Dixie Fried album and it led to a Vanguard contract. An eponymous release of 1972 is now as rare as hen’s teeth, as were sightings of Frank for many years.

It transpired he’d been in Oakland and resurfacing with the new century he turned out three new albums, revisiting old songs and older companions. Dickinson produced 2002’s Keep On Burning.

Now for World Without End he’s teamed up with John Murry, sometime member of Lucero, and they’ve made a very singular recording. It’s a collection of murder ballads, freshly written and telling real stories in new ways. Macabre and eerie, their settings and arrangements sometimes support and sometimes contrast the tales being told; a couple of tracks have an almost carnival feel to them. They run the gamut from simple folk styles to post-rock dissonance.

It’s a parade of unreliable narrators, legendary outlaws, and mythical figures. From the killing of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, to the life and bloody end of Mexican outlaw Joaquin Murietta whose severed head passes around a saloon in a jar, to the matter of fact tale of Bubba Rose’s inexplicable slaying of his boss. Most shocking of all is ‘Jesse Washington 1916’. Be wary of hearing this tale of a lynching in Waco from the victim’s perspective; it’ll haunt your dreams.



The murder ballad collection, World Without End, recorded with John Murry, has drawn attention to Bob Frank’s eponymous 1972 Vanguard release. Fortunately it hasn’t taken long for Décor to arrange its reissue, along with a batch of contemporary demos.

It shows him a spare and precise songwriter imbued with that same spirit found on Mickey Newbury’s Frisco Mabel Joy; the sense of defeat and aimlessness after the demise of the 60s dream. These are songs about winos, bums, and draft dodgers. ‘She Pawned Her Diamond For Some Gold’ is about persuading your girlfriend to sell her ring to buy dope, ‘Waitsburg’ tells what happens when you buy drink and go driving around. ‘Return To Skid Row Joe’, a marvellously constructed, poetic epiphany, shows the moment when you can’t avoid seeing what you’ve become.

Vietnam is an unspoken presence. ‘Cold Canadian Pines’, an affecting lament for the refuseniks in Canada, is contrasted with ‘When Johnny Was Called By The Draft Board’, just proving you’re damned both ways.

There’s also ‘Judas Iscariot’, a fine take on the Jesus story owing a debt to ‘Frankie Lee And Judas Priest’, and thus pointing to John Wesley Harding, a record this stands comparison to.

Both of those reviews appeared in Rock'N' Reel in 2007 and 2008. Sadly the Frank album never actually materialised in finished form so you'll still have to pay £100 for the original vinyl - always assuming you can find it.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Hi there.

Just reading your blog as I was looking for more info on Bob Frank. As it turns out, I have an original white label promo pressing of the Vanguard album I would part with. Cover is in good condition with light ring wear and a 1" split in the lower front edge. Vinyl is in excellent condition with minimal surface noise & only minor ticks here & there. Don't know if there's any interest, but I thought I'd mention it.