John Murry seems to be on his own (smaller) version of Dylan’s never ending tour as he and his band resumed a UK tour which kicked off back in June and then had a short break. Murry was joined on the road once again by his new buddy Benjamin Folke Thomas (the pair seem to have really clicked according to some of their social media posts) who was the main support and who then joined the latter half of Murry’s set on guitar and good vibes.
Opening as a trio with Murry (seated due to a recent back injury) cradling his Stratocaster and with Tali Trow on bass and Dave Hart smacking the drums they were loud from the start with Murry’s voice buried in the mix. Aside from the slight reggae lilt offered to ‘One Day We’ll Die’ this was music with an air of malevolence about it, the rhythm section throbbing as Murry showered the audience with shards of noise wrung from his guitar. There were swampy blues notes in ‘Silver & Lead’ and then with some grunge like ferocity along with some surf guitar thrown in, a wall of noise eventually coalesced into ‘Miss Magdalene’ which had an almost krautrock beat to it.
Folke Thomas joined the band on guitar half way through as they launched into ‘Wrong Man’, his presence a fine foil for Murry’s sardonic wit as he introduced the band waving in Folke Thomas’ direction saying, “But I don’t know him.” Leaving aside his most recent album Murry delved into ‘The Graceless Age’ with a tremendous version of ‘Southern Sky’ which opened with what seemed to be a deliberate nod to the guitar jousting of Stills and Young back in CSN&Y days and then veered into Crazy Horse territory with Murry almost wrestling with his guitar.
This was Murry delving into his southern roots and exorcising ghosts through his coruscating bursts of guitar, his bathetic ballads thrown into a grinder. Significantly, there was no rendition of ‘Little Coloured Balloons’ which has been seen as his signature song on a night which showed that Murry continues to amaze and is not content to rest on his laurels.
It was great to finally see Benjamin Folke Thomas on his first Scottish show. The very likeable Swede had the audience on his side from the moment he bounced onto the stage and delivered the first of his humorous introductions before launching into ‘One Day’, a song from his forthcoming album, ‘Modern Man’. A wry reflection on his career and dreams of becoming a star it was a grand introduction to his live persona which is more jocular than one would expect from his albums. ‘One More Chance’ was an excellent angsty love song as he confessed that he lives in fear of his wife leaving him and ‘Stuff of Dreams’ grew from a dream he had where Paul Newman offered Folke Thomas a part in a pool movie; here he cajoled the audience into singing the chorus in a high-pitched manner. There were more serious moments as when he reflected on the recent success of Sweden’s far right party before singing ‘Finn’, a song about refugees and his grandfather in particular. And after a brave couple slow danced before the stage as he sang ‘Dream About You Baby’ He offered them a prize if they could dance to the next song before singing an unrecorded number called ‘Martyr’s Cross.’ This was one of the highlights of the night allowing him to showcase his excellent guitar skills with a Jansch-like introduction on a song which cast religious imagery in a Grand Guignol setting. Unknown to most of the audience Folke Thomas certainly picked up some new followers tonight.
The evening opened with local singer/songwriter Steve Grozier who has released two well regarded EPs and who was chosen by the AMA UK to perform at the Maverick Festival. Softly spoken and with his songs delivered in a delicate manner, live he comes across as a bedsit artist singing of love and loss without the creamy west coast vibe of his recordings. Songs such as ‘The Hardest Thing’ and ‘Take My Leave’ recalled the work of Gordon Lightfoot or Mickey Newbury but it was the shadow of another artist which was cast on his best song tonight as he offered the hardy souls who attended early, ‘Jason Molina’s Blues’. Simply put, an excellent song from an artist well worth keeping an eye on.