Written by Daniel Barker
Apr 16, 2009 at 08:00 PM
ImageA living historian of the alternative country/folk music scene had made his way back to The Mucky Duck in Houston, Texas for the CD Release Party of his latest release “Last Exit to Happyland” on Crankbait Music. Gurf produced the album himself in the city he calls home – Austin’s Rootball Studio. Gurf is a member of the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame (2004) and the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame (2005).

Gurf Morlix was slap-dab-right-in-the-middle of 70’s folk scene that thrived in Houston and Austin where he began playing guitar for the likes of Blaze Foley moving out to LA eventually and hooking up with Lucinda Williams. He was intensely involved in the production of the Grammy award winning “Car Wheels on Gravel Road” album. An Axl Rose like “Chinese Democracy” marathon that would prove to sever his long time relationship with the artist 2 years before it released.

Following this type of music, GM’s name pops up everywhere. I mean everywhere. In my opinion, he is as important a music producer as Mutt Lange, Rick Rubin, Ry Cooter, Dr. Dre or even Quincy Jones. You have to see the list of albums he is associated with to truly appreciate this genius. Besides artist already mentioned there is Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves, Mary Gauthier, Hot Club of Cowtown, Tom Russell and his most recent Romi Mayes’s March 2009 release– “Achin’ In Yer Bones”.

The first time I saw Gurf Morlix was the first time I heard of him. My roommate dragged me to a Writers in the Round at Rice University in the mid-nineties to see Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Ray Wylie Hubbard. GM was with Lucinda playing lead and singing harmony. I had not heard of any of these guys but that night changed my musical life. Like the first Pearl Light stolen from my best friends grandmas frig, I have been hooked ever since.

With all that said, I have to admit I was not going to this show. I had bought “Toad of Titicaca” after I dug a track off it named “Wild Things” that was getting airtime on KPFT.  Basically, the rest of the album paled in comparison. Then, I saw GM at the 2008 Stingaree Festival and was not impressed at all. I respect the guy’s accomplishments behind the scenes but was not a big enough fan to do The Duck Dance on a Thursday night just to see him. Then I got a email from fellow music lover DeDe needing help to not get burned by a last minute bailout. Being the good looking female buying freebie slut that I am, I was on it.  Short of it being Shake Russell.

The night proved to be a “Gurf Morlix for Dummies” lesson which I was glad to be part of. Almost like a musical lecture on the journey that Gurf has been on and what he has learned to appreciate the most. Telling stories before his songs written for dear friends and legends like Blaze Foley and Warren Zevon. GM intertwined his own songs with covers by an eclectic mix of characters – Don Walser, Merle Haggard, Ringo Starr, and John Van de Beer(?).  Gurf, who is a bad ass guitar player, was stripped down to nothing but an old Canadian acoustic and a foot stomp box. The sound was good and the small crowd was very respectful. Although what seemed random at the time proved that GM was very coherent of what he was doing in retrospect – a true storyteller telling his story the way he knows best, thru song. To be honest, I learned a lot.

Some Examples… GM challenges the audience to figure out who wrote the next song he is gonna play even poking that at the last show no one knew… Turned out to be a Ringo Starr song..It was cool..Just like him telling us that Don Walser gave him his hat that he wore on The Grand ‘Ole Opry and how much was respected the way that Warren Zevon handled his death. Gurf toured with Zevon in 1990. Telling the story of a Lucinda roadie who loved the road so much that upon his early passing had his ashes put into a road case that has been on 3 world tours since…

Being back in Houston, the dominate theme, however, was Blaze Foley. He told many stories and played many songs either written by or about Blaze. He even had Blaze CD’s for sale…GM will be playing at the screening of a new documentary about Blaze Foley’s life at The Old Quarter in Galveston on May 29th. If you are into to this scene, I would mark that one down right behind Guy Clark being there for the first time ever on May 7th. May looks to be a very emotional month for owner, Wrecks Bell, who is another surviving actor in this cathartic movement.

All in all, I am glad that I went and listened to what was on GM’s mind. Regardless of what I think about music that dons only his name on the cover, there is no doubt that the music I love has a big GM stamp on it and will for many years to come. I hear many young artist talk about being out at either Gurf’s house in Austin or his place up in Canada and the respect they have for him. I am talking about people like Scott Nolan, Roger Marin and Romi Hayes. Couple that with the respect he gets from young local artist like Hayes Carll it proves that Gurf Morlix continues to do what he does best – herding creative cats into a studio can. Just like he did with Blaze.

And there is hope yet,  I picked up the new disc (really just to get him to sign it) and I am kinda liking it..Until next time, I’ll see you out supporting live music.