Music Reviews

Gurf Morlix: “Diamonds to Dust” Review

Raw. Unpolished. Bare. These are words to describe Diamonds to Dust, the latest album by Gurf Morlix, Austin’s man-behind-the-man. Best known for his work with Americana big-shots like Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Jimmy Lafave, and Slaid Cleaves, every now and then Morlix is prone to doing his own thing, on his own terms. His fourth solo effort is eleven tracks of straight-forward Americana: no production tricks, no slick soundscapes, no ‘radio tunes’, just one man’s words and music. Morlix’s songs and stories run the gamut from the quiet introspection of ‘Blanket’ – with ethereal harmony sung by Patty Griffin – to the rough edges and bleakness of ‘Windows Open, Windows Close’. Filled with two-beat bass, four-on-the-floor drums, dirty guitars that never play solos, and a voice like a mouthful of Texas dust with a whiskey chaser, Diamonds to Dust is no pick me up, no starry romance. But the rugged electric outlaw tunes and deep acoustic ballads work, like plain old good songs should.

The opening track ‘Killing Time in Texas’, a get-out-of-town-while-you-still-can ballad, sets the tone for the album: stripped-down and gritty. ‘Madalyn’s Bones’ shows off Morlix’s dark wit by appropriating a well loved children’s tune: ‘The head-bone was next to the hip bone/the hip-bone was next to the neck bone/the neck bone was next to the leg-bone/the leg-bone was next to the shoulder bone’ on the bridge. The standout track on the album is definitely ‘Blanket’, an introspective, heartfelt ballad about facing mortality, inspired by the deaths of rock icon Warren Zevon and long-time friend Chris Slemmer. Although there are a few rough spots, like the preachy droning of ‘With God on our Side’ and the clichés of ‘I’ve got a Passion’, but taken as a whole, this album measures up on its own two feet. This spins well with late Dylan – Time out of Mind or Modern Times – John Hyatt, or any of Texas’s great Americana artists, the very sound he helped to define over the past two-plus decades.

If you were looking for an album to go along with that brand spanking new six-pack, or a long drive on a dark highway, this just might be the album for you.

3.5 stars

Track Listing:

1. Killin’ Time In Texas
2. Madalyn’s Bones
3. Food Water Shelter And Love
4. Blanket
5. Diamonds To Dust
6. With God On Our Side
7. Passion
8. Windows Open, Windows Close
9. Up Against It
10. Worth Dying For
11. Need You Now

by Justin Patch