Kristina Murray brings it home on new CD: Unravelin’
True country music has deep roots and everything to do with people telling stories while trying to survive. It’s a rich tradition blending African American field hollers, gospel, and blues, with Scotts-Irish fiddle tunes, ballads–European instruments (like guitars and mandolins) melding with African banjos and poly-rhythms. There has always been great power in this blend, and a hundred years of invention and remixing which led to writers of genius, from Hank Williams to Kris Kirstofferson. But so much contemporary country music feels like it was cranked out of a studio with a drum track, while the melodies and lyrics were put together by committee, consisting of people who never read Hemingway, or Zora Neal Hurston, nor ever took an entry-level college class in creative writing, studied Jimmie Rogers, Hank, or Woody Guthrie. Lyrical, haunting songs of depth and emotion, like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” or “Me and Bobbie McGhee” are just not heard on the radio today. But this kind of songwriting is not dead. Every now and then someone comes along with real grit, telling it like it is, singing with absolute conviction, and embracing the best of country’s raw honesty and drive while telling new stories with an old twist.
Kristina Murray—a Georgia girl—rises over the Colorado plains with wings and soars above the white noise of today’s radio blandness, proving herself a songwriter in the same vein as the likes of Lucinda Williams. Unravelin’ is Murray’s first album under her own name: a self-financed, independent release of eleven original songs spanning rock n roll, honkytonk and sweet, soulful country music. Walking vocally in the path of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Emmylou Harris, Kristina steps out with a voice that cuts like obsidian to the bone. And it is from the marrow she writes of love, heartbreak, and loss: of the year her mama cried, of her man leaving and doing her wrong, of a little girl trying to make it big. And there is the windblown feeling of the American continent in these songs, which have real things, like jukeboxes, the Louisiana line, dimes, the Carolina sea, radios in Chevys, half empty bottles, and the moan of lights out (from what sounds like a true hit song from 1953—and should be a hit today—“Lights Out for the Lonesome”). There are country queens and swinging doors, as the fabulous electric guitar work of James T. Davis dances through with bluesy joy and pain; there’s pedal steel, a real drum kit and bass, and Kristina’s own acoustic guitar weaves through the background. With childhood friend Cat Brantly on vocal harmony on a few tunes, it feels as though we’re listening to two women who are related—like the Judd’s—a perfect blend of voices that sends shivers down your spine. You will feel this album moving through you. It’s a CD I want in the car with me as I’m headed down the road, for the album conjures all the richness of americana, pulling up what lies below the surface. We feel like we are in the true America, the one currently hidden behind the gloss and glitz of Nashville, the one of deep soil, the America of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and other giants of the land.
Unravelin’, Murray’s independent debut album is set to be released on Tuesday, November 5, 2013, available online through most digital outlets.