It’s easy to see why the first track of John Murry’s third and latest Americana album, The Stars Are God’s Bullet Holes, begins with a tongue-in-cheek homage to Oscar Wilde. The nineteenth-century Irish author, playwright, and poet represents somewhat of a tragic figure, but one who was a keen observer of both himself and the human condition, unafraid to confront the currents of darkness that invariably run through each of our own souls. Murry, who was born in the United States but now resides in Wilde’s native Ireland, shares the poet’s aversion to superficiality and penchant for wit, yet almost always with a deadly serious bent.
No element of superficiality can be heard in Murry’s songwriting. Unless invoked with a degree of irony, there is no lazy recycling of the pre-packaged and hackneyed symbols that so often plague folk, country, and Americana music. Every word Murry sings is deeply personal and wonderfully original. His candor renders each tune deeply introspective, self-aware, and genuine. But his songs are also startlingly dark, full of references to violence, greed, and the worst parts of human nature. Murry is unapologetic on this point, indeed this is the thematic territory which he seems most eager to explore.
Murry’s songs might therefore be described as heavy, but perhaps a better word would be real. In a less skilled artist, his constant candor might prove an overwhelming and even demoralizing experience for the listener. But listening to this album, this is not the case. For all that he unabashedly bares his darkest demons and most intimate thoughts, Murry’s music is refreshingly honest, and is not without shades of irony and occasional instances of dark humor.
The track, “I Refuse to Believe – You Could Love Me,” conveys both his cynicism and penchant for self-deprecation, and is surprisingly one of the most upbeat tunes on the album. By contrast, the title track, “The Stars Are God’s Bullet Holes” contains no elements of levity. Instead, Murry becomes the image of a martyr, destined to suffer without relief.
Murry’s musical language resists comparison or easy description, and he is unafraid to plunge into uncharted sonic territory. Elements of Americana intermingle with flavors of rock, folk, country, and electronic music. His voice is almost speech-like, his musings are uttered in a quasi- mumble, and rarely does he raise his voice. The instrumental parts are remarkably varied throughout each song, but almost always contain a constant grittiness, whether it’s an overdriven electrical guitar, a manically insistent high-hat, or the growling and scraping of deep bass notes.
The Stars Are God’s Bullet Holes, doesn’t just represent what Americana sounds like but, but also what it should feel like. Murry’s genre-bending, soulful, is an impactful and deeply personal eleven-track tour de force. Murry has the soul of a poet, the mind of a stoic, and musical chops that are worthy of his prose.
The Stars Are God’s Bullet Holes is available on all major streaming platforms.
Written by Jacob Jahiel
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