Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gurf Morlix with Kevin Triplett and his documentary “Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah”; October 27, 2011; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music

Blaze Foley was a generally unknown singer songwriter when he was killed by a friend’s son. Twenty two years he still isn’t a well known name, Kevin Triplett wants to change that. He’s spent the last twelve years lovingly assembling the movie that he brought to the basement tonight. Along the way he met Austin producer and musician Gurf Morlix who had played with Foley on his few recordings. This year Morlix released a record of fifteen Foley covers, and the two hit the road together spreading the word about the Duct Tape Messiah. The name refers to Foley’s penchant for using duct tape to accent his clothes and cowboy boots to mimic (and mock) the steel tips the trendy urban cowboys he loathed were sporting.

Before tonight the only thing I knew about Foley was that Lucinda Williams had written “Drunken Angel” about him; I learned more writing the blurb about the show- that he was friends with Townes Van Zandt (who famously said “Foley only went crazy once, decided to stay”) and that his songs have been covered by Lyle Lovett and Merle Haggard. He had a strange career, getting some great breaks but then usually shooting himself in his duct-taped boot, often by getting drunk or once losing the masters of his record. He also had a strange childhood with an abusive, alcoholic father and interesting siblings. The film covers all these events honestly through very personal interviews, including Foley’s muse Sybil Rosen, and some rare live footage, tying the chapters together with creative animation and Foley’s own artwork. Even if you don’t know a thing about Foley the film is an intriguing watch, and I highly recommend it. After the showing Triplett took questions from the audience. Looking to add to my collection, I asked if his colorful, folk-artwork would ever be made available. Happily he replied that was one of the things he was working on.

After a short break, Morlix returned with his guitar to play a set of songs. Having played and recorded with Foley, he had personal insight on many of the songs. Perhaps the most amusing of these was a song Foley wrote after seeing a woman deliberately lock her car door as she passed him hitchhiking. It starts off “Lock your door lady or I’ll jump in your car, don’t you know how nasty we are?” “Wouldn’t that Be Nice” goes on to detail all the horrible things he would do to her if she had stopped for him. It’s an amusing laundry list, ranging from “mess up your hairdo” to “buy me some earthworms, smear ‘em on you,” before he sums it up, “Wouldn’t that be nice?” He chose the title track as much for convenience as any other reason. Since he didn’t want to give the record a title and then a subtitle of a tribute to Blaze Foley, naming it after the talking blues “Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream” covered both bases. “If I Could Only Fly” is perhaps the best known and most covered of Foley’s songs and it is easy to see why. The honest love song appeals to everyone, Haggard even named his record after it, and Morlix did it justice. My favorite of the collection is “Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries” the main items in a laundry list of things that make him happy. “Might be stupid to you,” he sings, “but it ain’t that crazy to me.” Foley was a big fan of John Prine and in songs like these you can hear his influence.

The humble and gregarious Morlix is a treat live. His aw shucks charm and wry wit make him a terrific entertainer, and it was hard decide which version was better, his or Foley’s. The last time he played the basement Morlix introduced us to the fantastic and very much alive Sam Baker. This time through we got to meet Blaze Foley. Morlix is batting a hundred.

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