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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 19 August 2012
Every now and then an album comes along that blows me away, it doesn't happen all that often anymore but it does still happen and `The Graceless Age' falls firmly into that category. I didn't really know much about John Murry before getting this record but I now feel I know him intimately and through this amazing album I can feel his pain, in the words of Bob Dylan there is definitely blood on the tracks along with sweat, tears and a whole host of other emotions. Right from the opener `The Ballad of the Pajama Kid' with its Pearl Jam meets `Knocking on Heaven's Door' mash up you can just tell this is going to be a special record and there is no better example of his self-confessional approach as the ten minute `Little Colored Balloons' the sparse piano, cello and minimal gospel hues underpin the true story of Murry's heroin overdose, he was dead for several minutes before being revived. It has shades of Jason Spaceman's confessionals on `Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space' but whereas he went grand with big sounds and production Murry is content with a stripped bare approach letting the sordid tale and his cracked and bruised vocal speak for itself. The innocent title refers to the way the drug was dispensed in his home town in coloured balloons. Guitars, strings and Hammond organ are often layered throughout punctuated by sounds clipped from police broadcasts, radio shows and television, distant voices are present but lost in the compositions perhaps reflecting how Murry felt in the world at the time when he was in the throes of his addictions. Lyrically it is deep and dark but musically it can sound like R.E.M., Jim White, Sparklehorse and in its more atmospheric sections not too dissimilar to Smog. In fact across the ten songs there probably won't be anything that will leap out as sounding all that new but it's in the familiarity, warmth and clever construction that Murry can truly open up and take the listener on a journey into the darkest places a human can go and still survive. Like John Grant's reinvention and subsequent rise on 2010 `Queen of Denmark' it is my hope that enough people find this album and make sure it hits the end of year lists as high as it deserves. Four years in the making this is a remarkable record that has real heart just note that the heart in question is pretty black.
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on 31 August 2012
I'm not a regular reviewer but I just strongly feel this superb record deserves the widest possible audience. I only picked up on it via a track on a free Cd with Uncut magazine who also gave it a rave. John Murry has clearly had a tough life, but out of his suffering has come this cathartic masterpiece which was four years in the making. The style isn't innovative; it's got a little bit of a country feel but is above all Americana rock which is dripping with anger and hurt. Most importantly the songs are genius. It reminds me of John Grant, or even of some of Springsteen's solo stuff but is even better. Album of the year so far without a doubt.
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on 19 September 2012
I too discovered this album via a free track on an Uncut CD, and haven't stopped listening to it since. It's one of the best Lps I've heard this year - dark, brooding American country-folk topped off by Mr Murry's battle-worn voice. A thing of beauty.
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on 20 March 2015
I found out about John Murry reading an old Uncut my brother gave me. Decided to buy the album from reading the live review. What a happy accident. It's the best album I've heard in years. Up there with Mark Lanegans Bubblegum though probably a better piece of work. The music, lyrics and vocals are deep and moving. I think it's going to reward repeated listens and straight after it finished I thought 'I have to play this again as it drew me in so much. Albums at their best are a complete body of work with themes running through them. This is true here. Please enter John Murry's world, it's not an easy ride but bears rich rewards for your spirit and soul.
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on 3 November 2012
This is a must have, if you like your music with the nerve ends exposed.John exorcises his old demons with an honesty and vulnerability seldom heard in the sanitised,anodyne offerings of many would be singer/songwriters.Delve into his background to get a flavour of where he's been, and the life experiences that inform this album.It has taken four years to bring it out,for various reasons.Chuck Prophet is a good friend, and assisted in the process.He's coming to the UK in the new year and I'll be seeing him at the voodoo rooms in Edinburgh in January. As a guide to the albums greatness,it has been included in the Uncut albums of the year,and only twenty make it through.Buy it and it will keep on giving.
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on 27 February 2014
I heard this album from a friend who had previously heard one of MY earlier John Murry albums and we both agree how powerfull Mr Murry's song writing is.
The 10 songs on offer here are all haunting and vary in time length somewhat.. my own favourite .. the strangely titled LITTLE COLOURED BALLOONS is a 10 minute beauty/ beast of a song.. it practically bleeds out the lyrics. John certainly knows how to tell a story in his words. He also invents a new music offshoot with this, it sounds like a Prog Folk variation here.
His music also blends the beautiful musical passages with heart breaking words that compliment each other rather well I found too that my head sings his lyrics constantly like they're tattooed there forever. I think that if this fellows music was a movie it would be classed as PG, similar to the effect that THE EXORCIST had in the 70s.. you may even hide behind the couch when playing this too.
I recently attended a gig in Glasgow where John appeared and it was terrific, He played several songs from this album and even the crowd fave Little Coloured balloons. He was surprisingly funny too, he spoke to the crowd between songs and showed a real dry wit along with his sombre words.
My wife was not so impressed with his work = she thought he was unclear with his Southern drawl.. There again, the set was not a happy listen, more a brutal battering of the verbal kind.
He certainly wears his heavy heart on a talented sleeve and I was honoured to later speak to the gentleman and found him very pleasant.
As for this wonderfull CD.... I think it's going to be played often... but a word of warning.. don't play it alone with the lights out.
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on 3 December 2013
I am not one to go over the top about things but this is some album. i am so glad i brought this. Its probably one of the best albums i have heard this year. brilliant album and it seems, written from the soul.
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on 2 July 2013
One of the best albums of 2013. In a wider sense you could file under similar categories to John Grant or Kurt Vile but, in my view, John Murry could be the dark horse who will come good. The album draws on Murry's own experiences of love, loss, heartbreak and death - he was technically dead in the back of an ambulance on one occasion during his heavy drug phase, but has thankfully lived literally to tell the tale. Lyrically beautiful, the songs are cut through with some searing guitar work and a great attitude. Standout tracks include Little Colored Balloons, Southern Sky, Things We Lost In The Fire and - my personal favourite - the truly wonderful 'feel' track (with accompanying 'classic'-style lead guitar break!) No te da ganas de reir, Senor Malverde. A stunning album that repays repeated listens - and it's equally good and moody with the lights on or off!
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Having waited for Santa to deliver this album down a dirty chimney leads to the conclusion that it would be nice if in the future St Nick made some interim visits mid year. John Murry's "The Graceless Age" is one of the finest albums of 2012 and the wait to "press play" on this granite strength album has been excruciating. Murry's story is one of triumph over considerable fortitude. He has been prone to self destruction not least through a troubled past, heavy substance misuse/consumption and many of the songs on "The Graceless Age" especially the dark and haunting 10 minutes of "Little coloured balloons" deal with his harrowing experiences especially his near death from an overdose. Fundamentally therefore this is an album aimed at exorcism and a cathartic coming to terms with a bible black history which has often teetered on the abyss. The sheer force of the music on "The Graceless Age" cannot help but hold your rapt attention, and there are times that almost out of respect you dare not turn off certain tracks. Yes it is a haunting album but the songs here are musically constructed with dedicated skill over a five year period by Murry who in the words of Chuck Prophet told this musician that he must made this album `in spite of yourself'. The result is a magnificent set of ten of the best songs this side of Murry's home in North Mississippi sung in a brooding voice underpinned by a Southern drawl that betrays him as a distant descendent of William Faulkner.

As mentioned "Little coloured balloons" is possibly the most riveting song committed to vinyl last year but it has tough competition throughout this record. "Things we lost in the fire" details destruction through flames and starts as a plaintive beauty of a country song only to pause and then end with a huge rock out. Opener the "Ballad of the Pyjama Kid" starts with a squall of feedback and then shifts into a captivating Dylan style ballad with resonances of "Knockin on Heavens Door". Many will have already heard the brilliant "Southern Sky" on the September Uncut Sampler CD and it is a song that undoubtedly generated real interest in the "Graceless Age". It is massively twisted and heartbroken, infused with distorted guitar and a level of visceral power that could light up a medium size city. On the desolate "No te da ganas de reir, Sènor Malverde? Murry constantly repeats the refrain "What keeps me alive is gonna kill me in the end" a sentiment any addict would ruefully recognise and regret. There are brighter moments here such as "Penny Nails" which is a scintillating duet with singer Jana Misener. But all songs are tempered by Murry's lyrics which dwell on often wretched experience and hard lessons learned. Thus "Photograph" which echoes American Music Club charts "the women worn down" and how Murry has "been unnamed since the day I was born, with a crest made of thorns, in a world of gunpowder'. In the superb uber powerful urban blues of "California" he reflects how `I searched the sky line in vein for one goddamn star' before the "Mission bell rings and politicians are borne on a thousand TVs". You must seek this one out.

Some might argue that the level of wasted desolation that Murry has endured has led to a hugely self indulgent downer album aimed purely at staring into the eyes of ghosts of the past and confronting them. Yet this album is essentially a plea for reconciliation and a better life. His affecting cover of Bobby Whitlock's poignant lament "Thorn tree in the garden" shows that at play in the "Graceless Age" is a musician who we NEED to hear more music from. At one point in the song "Southern Sky" Murry exasperatedly sings that "I've got no past, there is no future, this sickness follows me around". Whether an individual as volatile as Murry will ever achieve the inner peace he seeks and exercise those demons only time will tell. But any who loves music of the highest order should offer a very large plea to whatever spiritual force or God to whom you trust and hope above hope that this great artist is able to produce more music on par with the "Graceless Age" an album of immaculately realised songs.
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on 26 October 2013
I love this album. Rarely have I heard anyone who can convey such emotion through their songs. Little coloured ballons is the stand-out track, and the one I could listen to endlessly. John Murry is a man with the ability to channel every ounce of his feelings about love, life and loss into wonderful, heart-wrenching music. My favourite album of recent years.
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