Since 1996, Gary Murray has recorded 8 beautifully haunting albums under the moniker LN. His band members have fluctuated, but he remained the one constant, holding it all together. His stark musicianship and indescribable voice have categorized them as a folk band, and maybe they were. The term I always used when talking about LN was “sonically-enhanced folk music”. The songs were folk songs in essence, but they piled so many amazing effects on top of them, it was tough to really nail them down into a single category.
This EP marks the first time that he has recorded under his actual name. It’s hard to see too much difference between this album and his work with LN, mainly because he was the lead singer and main songwriter of LN. Of course there are going to be similarities. The songs on this EP are generally more stripped down than his work in LN, but his releases of Dirt Floor Hotel, parts 1 & 2, were kind of leaning towards a more stripped down feel, anyway. I guess you could say that, if you’d been following LN for more than a year you could probably see this coming.
Within 2 seconds of the first song (“Revenant Waltz”) you can tell what you’re in for. It’s a gorgeously heartbreaking song about lost love, with the lines, “There’s a slow moving train singing low refrains of I’m sorry/That I’m not the man who could give you everything.” It’s backed musically by a beautiful piano line, an electric guitar line drenched in tremolo and sadness in the foreground, while an acoustic guitar strums ever so lightly in the background…unless you’re listening hard, you can’t even hear it until the end.
“Whiskey” is a throwback to Hank Williams, Sr. (you know…the good one). Murray’s voice backed only by a slow acoustic guitar…you can almost see him recording this song in a rundown motel room somewhere off a deserted highway.
“Goodbye Eleanor Blue” took a while for me to like…at least 4 listens. The piano (the only instrumentation in the song) seems a bit erratic. It starts and stops in odd places, almost as if he has forgotten that he was playing in the first place. It doesn’t seem to go with his voice at all. It’s only after repeated listens that it actually starts to make sense. And even now I can’t tell you why it makes sense…just that it does.
“Billy” closes out the album in fitting fashion. It’s not just anyone who can cover a Dylan song and get away with it, but Murray pulls it off. He not only pulls it off, but (dare I say it) his version is actually better than Dylan’s. It’s a stark and beautiful song that makes you darn near weep for Billy the Kid.
Only one song, “Queen of the Freight Train”, really has a whole lot of instrumentation in it, being the only track featuring drums. It doesn’t necessarily seem out of character, but it does stand out in stark contrast to the rest of the album. It actually reminds me of something 10,000 Maniacs would’ve done, but that could be just me.
Gary has created a great album…not that there’s any surprise to those of us who have loved LN for years. I just hope that, with this release, he will finally get the credit he deserves.
For anyone who loves stripped-down folk music with heart and feeling, this is for you.
Favorite Tracks: “The Revenant Waltz”, “Billy”
Buy this album, and check out Gary's work with LN, here