Photo | Sarah Barker Huhn / Submitted
Gurf Morlix will be featured at the University of South Alabama’s Independent Music Collective along with Birmingham duo Early James and The Latest.
Band: Gurf Morlix album release party featuring Early James & the Latest
Date: Friday, Feb. 8, with doors at 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Satori Coffee House, 5460 Old Shell Road (Mobile), satori-coffee.com
Tickets: $5 suggested donation at door; free to USA students with ID
The University of South Alabama’s Independent Music Collective (IMC) is helping a talented producer/singer-songwriter celebrate the release of his 10th album. Gurf Morlix will use the warm and cozy environment of the Satori Coffee House to give Mobile a live introduction to his new studio album, “Impossible Blue.”
Before his performance at Satori, Morlix took the stage in his hometown of Austin to road-test these tracks in a more familiar environment. He said releasing songs for an audience’s reaction is an integral part of the songwriting process, a chance to see if the audience connects with a song on the same level as the songwriter.
“When do you know when a song is done?” Morlix asked. “It’s when you play it in front of an audience and they respond. The audience will let you know if your songs are any good. You gotta give the songs a chance to get in front of an audience, or you get in front of them.”
Known for his work with Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen and Mary Gauthier, Morlix has filled “Impossible Blue” with nine tracks that revive a mellow style of countrified blues rock from the same environment that gave birth to J.J. Cale. Archaic blues trips across the fretboard are brought into current times by a healthy serving of smooth rock grooves shaped by the glory days of the Austin scene. This allows the music on this album to exist in its own microcosm of genre.
Morlix said he considers himself a singer-songwriter merely “informed” by the blues.
“Every album that I do has some bluesy stuff in it,” he explained. “I’m steeped in the blues, and all the music I like is informed by the blues. Like, The Beatles are informed by the blues; they don’t play blues. Then I find that all the music that I don’t like, there is no blues in it, like some of this pop stuff. I hear stuff all the time that I don’t like, and I realize that they haven’t heard Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters or Slim Harpo.”
As far as the album’s subject matter, Morlix is hoping his listeners discover a relatable connection buried within. These days, he has been focusing on life as an ever-dwindling “precious commodity.”
Many of these songs deal with the realization that humans maintain a temporary existence, all meeting the same conclusion. Even though this is typically a serious subject matter, Morlix’s musical arrangements and lyrical delivery make these heavy topics delicious. Ultimately, he thinks these are some of the best songs he has ever written. However, he is more apt to attribute his personal satisfaction to his continued experience with composing songs.
“I just think that I keep getting better,” said Morlix. “At least, it seems that way to me. I think the albums get better every time with the sounds and the songs. It’s just a feeling that I get that I’m onto something, and I keep going with it.”
Satori Coffee House will satisfy one aspect of the songwriting Morlix craves. He will be able to deliver these songs in an environment that will allow him to receive a full measure of audience reaction. His time as a producer and hired gun has taught him it is hard to make that musical connection to the back or side of the stage. Morlix said he feels taking the front of the stage allows him to make a special connection with his audience.
“When you’re up there and it’s your songs and you’re talking to the audience and telling them who you are and then talking to them after the show, if they want to talk to you, that’s communication and community,” Morlix said. “That’s really important, and I’ve come to really love it.”
Early James & the Latest will travel from Birmingham to open for Morlix. This duo specializes in the sounds of the early 20th century. Frontman/songwriter James Mullis provides audiences with an old-fashioned mix of Tin Pan Alley ragtime with traditional country and folk, unleashed with a raw delivery.
Even though the Birmingham music scene tends to be focused on indie rock, Mullis said, the overwhelming sense of community between the artists has allowed this project to flourish in the Iron City.
“If anything, it’s [Birmingham music scene] more inviting as opposed to an environment like Nashville, which is more cutthroat on one specific genre,” Mullis said. “With the Birmingham community, everyone plays different music here, and everyone is a fan of everyone. It’s a nice way to feel accepted. That’s probably the biggest difference. There’s so much diversity.”
Early James & the Latest have been celebrating the release of their self-titled EP. Besides its hypnotic tracks, the release accents this classic music with production aspects matching the sounds. For this endeavor, Mullis says the duo retreated to Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis.
This journey began at iconic Birmingham venue The Nick. Mullis said bassist Jesse Phillips from St. Paul & the Broken Bones caught the band’s set. Afterwards, Phillips complimented the performance and suggested the band make the trip to Memphis. Once there, Mullis said, the studio’s equipment complemented the band’s sound.
“We were really lucky to do it at Sam Phillips and use all the tricks of the trade, from actual steel plate reverb to an echo chamber that Sam Phillips made that has no parallel surfaces with a speaker and a microphone. We were just fortunate to have that. I’m proud of how it came out. I guess that I just always wanted it to sound a little distorted and old,” Mullis said.
After opening for Morlix, Early James & the Latest will plan their full-length album. Mullis revealed the band has been looking at smaller labels to join, but he isn’t ready to provide those details just yet. He said he hopes the album can feature more instruments to help the band’s trademark sound to evolve. With this in mind, Early James & the Latest’s set at Satori might be a chance to catch the band before it requires a bigger setting.