Gurf Morlix, Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream
Cult favorite Blaze Foley is getting his due, with a variety of tribute albums on the market. Shot to death in 1989, the Austin songwriter left a legacy of stark songs buzzed through with humor, sarcasm and gloom—and left many bereft friends, though he didn't get the national recognition that came to, say, his friend Townes Van Zandt (whose song "Blaze's Blues" is a tribute), not to mention Merle Haggard, who had a hit with Blaze's "If I Could Only Fly." Blaze (real name Michael David Fuller) also worked with his friend, musician/producer/songwriter Gurf Morlix, whose new tribute album is a creep-up-on-you kind of winner.
Few songwriters attain the naked honesty Foley managed even in his lesser songs, and Morlix's flattish, laid-back vocal style is an excellent medium for appreciating the material, even if he can sound a little sleepy in a ballad like "Picture Cards." My favorites on this disc include "Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries," the biting "Small Town Hero," the hilarious title track, and the sad "Down Here Where I Am" ("The river's overflowing down here where I am / The rain keeps on pouring, I can't get into town"). But the album is really all of a piece—a homespun tapestry in the muted colors of the streets of the old, weird America. "I could do it all better if I could do it again," Foley wrote in "Cold, Cold World," which closes the disc. Two decades later he's doing it again, thanks to those who remember him, and this disc is a solid contribution to the celebration of his legacy.
Carey Ott, Human Heart
It's a big production, this one—20 songs, almost an hour and quarter of genre-coasting pop-rock. It feels like a concept album, except the concept is the human experience. "I don't have the answers, only love," Ott sings in "Ain't No Upside" amid relaxed electric piano filigrees. On the whole the disc has a soft, acoustic sensibility despite the full arrangements, and this comes partly from the simple yet sophisticated melodies. Well-crafted songs for adults? A whole album of them? Shocker. Even the occasional lapse into sugary James Blunt-style wimpiness (as in "Coming Up for Air") I can enjoy because of the artfully arranged moodiness of the music. "I'm just happy to be part of the show," Ott sings in "Just Happy," and he makes you believe it—and start feeling the same way yourself.