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Last Exit to Happyland

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iTunes Review

A noted record producer and multi-instrumentalist, Gurf Morlix is also one gripping singer. He established his name working with Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller and Robert Earl Keen, however, Last Exit to Happyland demands (much like his previous solo work) that Morlix stand in no one's shadow. Not surprisingly, he produces and arranges this solo album with an expert hand — playing all the instruments besides drums, handled by old friend Rick Richards. The sparse, tense arrangements lead you directly to Morlix's earthy tones, his knack for a solid, familiar melody and lyrics that tell stories or deliver smart, succinct quips on life. "One More Second" opens with an ominous murder. "She's a River" rests on a steady organ purring in the background and an unshakeable spiritual undertone. "Drums from New Orleans" grooves to a desperate voodoo vibe. "Music You Mighta Made" settles on a jaunty back-porch finger-picked riff and sweet, casual harmonies. "I Got Nothin'" chases the blues with a quiet, resilient grace. "Voice of Midnight" wraps things up with a gorgeous lullaby. Impressive from start to finish.

Customer Reviews

Quietly intense, rough-voiced, sweet-sounding Americana

Gurf Morlix has produced many of the who’s who of Americana, including Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. He’s added guitar to works by Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Peter Case and others, and crafted a low-key solo career starting with 2000’s Toad of Titicaca. Morlix sings with a bit of Buddy Miller’s moan and a bit of Tom Waits’ grit, but his confessional exhalations are more the parched tone of a dusty back road than the worn sidewalks of the bowery. He sings here with Patty Griffin, Barbara K and Ruthie Foster, but most impressively, he sings with his own instrumental accompaniment, as he plays everything but the drums (which, as on 2004’s Cut ‘n Shoot, are handled perfectly by Rick Richards). In less capable hands, a one-man-studio-band can sounds manufactured, with the artist’s secondary instruments slaved in tempo and mood to their primary axe. But Morlix approaches each instrument as a native, insuring each instrument’s sound has individual depth and character as it’s blended into an organic band sound. If you didn’t know this was the product of overdubbing, you’d be inclined to think it was recorded live – such is the interplay between the “players.” The arrangements and production show the sort of sensitivity to Morlix’s songs that could easily be sacrificed in a self-contained project. It’s not unusual for a writer to hear a song’s musical concept in his or her head, but it’s much rarer for the writer to successfully play and produce that sound into reality. The album opens with a one-time killer’s path from armament to remorseful condemnation, freeze-framing the fatal bullet’s path, examining it in lyrical detail and tagging it with the conscience-nagging chorus “one more second, was all it woulda took / another thought, a closer look / the thunder cracked, and blood ran cold / one more second, mighta saved my soul.” Morlix’s facility for description stocks “She’s a River” with a dozen metaphors, and the allusive path of “Hard Road” is set upon with the memorable introduction “I set out on my own, look out here I come / Whatever there might be, I was gonna get me some / Pure gun powder, I was ready to explode / The fuse was lit, I was out on the hard road.” That same road may be the one Morlix resolutely walks into the teeth of Hurricane Katrina in “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” and the Crescent City’s blues is heard in the restless soul, low-twang and wailing backing vocal of “Drums of New Orleans.” The edge in Morlix’s voice works just as well against lighter backings, such as the Shel Silverstein flavored “Music You Mighta Made” and the closing duet with Patty Griffin, “Voice of Midnight.” His songs are shot through with fatalism, but their tunefulness and Morlix’s inventive production keeps this from devolving into complete darkness. This is a beautifully crafted album from a thoughtful singer-songwriter whose producer and musicians (all of whom happen to be Morlix himself) add perfect musical color to his limited, but deeply soulful, vocal range. 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Rough and dark

Gurf's voice has gotten deeper and rougher over the years -- a friend says "it sounds like he gargles with ground glass" -- and his albums have gotten deeper and rougher too. And better. Every album he's put out has been better than the previous one, and then you arrive at this one, which is deep and rough and dark yet with the occasional flash of light to keep it from being a complete bummer.

This is an amazing album by someone you will never hear on the radio. Gurf knows how to produce, he knows how to play, he knows how to write songs, and whether you like "Americana" or just like good music, period, this is the real deal by a real musician.

Top Tier Stuff

This is one of my very favorite albums. Even my wife, who abhors anything close to country music likes it. Don't get me wrong…this is good solid Texas outlaw country music in the same vein as "Live at the Old Quarter" and "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". Heck, it's worth the ten bucks just hear Gurf sing the line…"I've known some people, who sold their soul to the devil. But, they don't sound nothing, LIke Robert Johnson." Great stuff


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s

After making a name for himself as a record producer for a roster of other artists that includes Robert Earl Keen and Lucinda Williams, Gurf Morlix struck out on his own with a solo effort when Catamount Records issued Toad of Titicaca in 2000. Morlix, a guitar player who sings and plays a number of other instruments, penned 11 numbers for his debut. The tracks, showcasing the many facets of Morlix as a songwriter, include a humorous homage to actor Dan Blocker, who played Hoss on the Western television...
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Last Exit to Happyland, Gurf Morlix
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Customer Ratings