This one is hard to pin down. On his debut solo LP, Grey McMurray has fused the avant grade to popular in an almost pastoral fashion; There's a gentle touch to texture throughout, his vocals seem to dance around oddball guitar and melody lines. I'm almost recalling Rufus Wainwright or Regina Spektor's earlier albums with lush orchestration, but subversive harmony and form. Beautiful record, beautiful artwork.
NYC singer, guitarist and producer Grey Mcmurray -- co-leader of the Tongues in Trees trio with Samita Sinha and Sunny Jain, and of the duo itsnotyouitsme with celebrated NYC composer Caleb Burhans. -- releases his first solo album Stay Up through Shahzad Ismaily’s figureight records on September 20th, 2019.
Thoroughly blooded as a sideman to musical giants -- Grey has worked with the likes of Gil-Scott Heron, Tyondai Braxton, Alarm Will Sound, Beth Orton, ACME, Colin Stetson, Ali Sethi, Sam Amidon and John Cale among others -- Stay Up represents an artist emboldened by musical heritage and a songwriting voice refined, singular and mesmerizing. The album is uniquely expressive, ranging from sweetly melodic passages reflecting the traditional cast of a singer-songwriter, to huge open plains of chord-washes and chorus, to dense, dark, acute dissonance, all composed and performed by a master of his instrument.
Grey’s guitar playing - sought after by so many luminaries - is of course a cornerstone here. More than just a backdrop for the message, the guitar often becomes the clearest voice in the room. Unshowy, unpretentious, but eloquent in his storytelling, Grey uses the instrument in the gentlest ways. Lead single “Wanting Ways” combines subtle chords with a constant bassdrum beat, punctuated with a glorious piano hook, secret, fizzing synthesiser and the tenderness of Grey’s effortless tenor. The guitar almost becomes overlooked, such is the precision of its placement.
It is evident throughout Stay Up that this record is the work of a highly skilled musician, a songwriter who has already crossed the void and returned with an intuitive, learned musicality, poetical and ease with a guitar, but perhaps troubled elsewhere. “Music is the only relative activity I have to feeling heartbroken, heartful or revelatory,” Grey writes. “In a way, these are ten versions of one song. In another way, everything fell apart, and I wanted to make an altar.“