John Murry + Lucas & King, St Mary’s Church, Guildford, 22nd July 2017

Upon arriving at the cobbled graveyard front entrance of St Mary’s church (with the support act having already begun) I could see looking at me in the shadows, by the corner of his tour van, the top-hatted and dark coated, pale thin features of John Murry. Sadistically I felt like requesting that he walk to the church’s rear side where a crowd of backpacked American students were investigating, selfie-ing & photo bombing. The gothic haunted vision of Murry would no doubt have provided them with the exact image they possibly sought. Their biggest surprise however would’ve been finding out this Dickensian non-ghost was actually from their very own shores.

Once inside picking out every phrase of John Murry’s chat was difficult, partly due to his Tupelo tone and partly my peripheral seat,  although I think he named his adopted three-piece band for this short UK tour The Passengers. For certain, he mentioned that it was, “possibly the end of the world” before launching into a reggae like cover of Tracks of my Tears that segued into One Day (You’ll die) from his new LP A Short History Of Decay with much of tonight’s set list also drawing from the album. Live, the songs benefited from the blending of pedal steel filling the sound on Wrong Man and When God Walks In with Murry strangling his Stratocaster for all it’s worth  with band members switching instruments, drummer playing bass and bassist church like piano. “I’m the wrong man to ride shotgun on any murder mile” broods Murry while he explains before the acoustic song, Oscar Wilde, that, “This song didn’t make the album, because I erm, forgot.”

His relocation to Kilkenny no doubt had an effect on new songs. Countess Lola’s Blues he informs us is based on innovative Irish dancer Lola Montez,  demonstrating her spider style dance while pondering aloud, “Yet the Irish are scared of spiders?”  “This song’s written by a Texan, but don’t hold that against him – love thy neighbours…except Texans,” he points out before punch strumming a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s Waiting Around To Die. He salutes the brave bassist come pianist as he leads him into a moving Little Colored Balloons, a flawless piece of autobiographical woe if there ever was one. “I know you don’t believe in magic, but nobody does, not anymore” he sings. Perhaps he’s right, but believe in the encapsulating man with the haunted look stood outside shadowing the graveyard, I certainly do.

Support came from South coast young female duo Lucas & King. The shimmering arpeggio guitar of Hayleigh King and the breathy smooth vocals of Bo Lucas makes for a fitting match. Their sound would not be out of place in the world of David Lynch. Find a producer of T-Bone Burnett type ear and values and they could genuinely soar.

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