Gurf Morlix finds the present tense. He really does, “it’s terrifying,” he quipped during his third appearance in the basement. It took a moment before the giggles from the crowd meant they had figured out his double meaning. So it’s appropriate that Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense is the name of his new record, his first of all new material in six years. His previous release, 2011’s Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream, was a collection of covers written by the memorable Austin character who was a good friend and whom Morlix played with many times before Foley’s senseless death in 1989. He claimed he tried to keep the body count down on this record, limiting it to only one after racking up eighty or so on the last. At first I thought he meant musicians in the band, but I eventually figured out he meant characters in his songs, each of which has a story to tell.
He also had a few (hilarious) stories to tell between songs. Several of them he also told last time, and I still haven’t figured out if they were really his or if he read them in Reader’s Digest. One of these involved being asked to play at the funeral of an unidentified homeless man. As you can guess it didn’t turn out as planned. Another was why he will never set foot in a Starbuck’s again. Many of his stories had to do with Foley, even though these were even more unbelievable, I was pretty sure these had happened. After all, this was a man about whom the legendary Townes Van Zandt said “he only went crazy once, decided to stay.” One of the most hilarious involved a little old lady who pointedly locked the door when Foley was hitchhiking. She had no way of guessing that Foley would later write the silly “Wouldn’t That Be Nice” hyperbole about the incident. Opposite of that song stands the heartbreaking love song “If I Could Only Fly,” a song which Merle Haggard recorded twice and called the “Greatest Country Song Ever.” “And if anyone should know, it’s Merle Haggard,” Morlix declared.
He also featured many of his own songs during his nearly two hour set. These didn’t have the instant memorability of Foley’s compositions, but they were well-crafted songs and he was happy to share the stories behind many of them. Opening track “My Life’s Been Taken” is about a bad decision that changes a life, while “Bang, Bang, Bang,” is, unsurprisingly, about our culture’s obsession with guns, made even more poignant by the reference to Foley. My personal favorite was the strong imagery of “A Series of Closing Doors.”
As always, Morlix delighted and charmed the crowd, a natural storyteller and laid-back performer. This was the first time he didn’t have to go to bed early or had made arrangements to stay elsewhere. And he surprised me by cracking several beers as we stayed up late. I introduced him to family favorite Ed Henry, and made him a copy of Country & Eastern which he promised to listen to exclusively on his six hour drive, he introduced me to Stompin’ Tom Connors, the Canadian Woody Guthrie. While YouTube yielded nothing on Henry, we were able to watch many videos of Connors. I told him to come back anytime, and meant it. Who knows, maybe next time he’ll have an Ed Henry cover for me.