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Gurf Morlix

The Soul & The Heal – 2017 (Rootball)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Gurf Morlix

Back in the '80s, Gurf Morlix turned his itinerant singer/songwriter/session ninja role into a 15-year gig with Lucinda Williams, playing guitar in her band and producing her third and fourth albums. After breaking with Williams over the endless production of "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," Morlix became an in-demand producer, manning the board for Robert Earl Keen, Mary Gautiher, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Ian McLagan, among many others. After nearly three decades of writing songs and thinking that few of them measured up to his talented peer group, Morlix released his first solo album, the twangy roots rock brilliance of "Toad of Titicaca."

On that first album, Morlix mentioned Tom Waits in his liner notes as someone you'd likely find on his playlist. So it's no surprise that "Deeper Down," the opening track on "The Soul & the Heal," Morlix's ninth solo jaunt in 17 years, seems to be channeling the bohemian genius, right down to the banging-in-the-tool-shed atmosphere, gravel throated vocals and the use of the word "perspicacious." Morlix shifts into his familiar loping bluesy Americana mode with "Love Remains Unbroken," a somber yet hopeful examination of the rigors of the titular emotion, which in fact forms the basis of most of "The Soul & the Heal." Evidence of Morlix's lyrical brilliance are scattered throughout like loose diamonds, from "Bad Things" ("The truth is an anchor and a lie has wings..."), to "Move Someone" ("A tractor beam, a moonlight caress/Do you even know the powers you possess?") to the chugging and unexpected love song "My Chainsaw" ("I cut more than 10 men could/A fine point you never understood..."), all of which are matched by his flawless musical intuition and raw emotional presentation.

"The Soul & the Heal" is a solo work in the truest sense, as Morlix is largely the only musical presence, save for drummer Rick Richards and the occasional evocative harmonica riff from Ray Bonneville. That may account for the singularity of the material's tempo, or it may just be that this is exactly how Morlix felt when he wrote this batch of songs. In either event, it won't take many listenings for "The Soul & the Heal" to insinuate itself into your core.