Album Review: Gurf Morlix – Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream

Sam Gazdziak | February 1st, 2011

Gurf Morlix - Blaze Foley's 113th Wet DreamBlaze Foley is probably remembered more today for the songs that were written about him (“Blaze’s Blues” by Townes Van Zandt and “Drunken Angel” by Lucinda Williams) than the ones written by him. John Prine, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson have covered his songs, but Foley, who was shot to death in 1989 at the age of 39, never reached the level of fame that some of his contemporaries did. Notoriety, perhaps, but not fame.

Foley is beginning to receive some recognition with the release of a new documentary, Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah, that gathers together many of the larger-than-life stories about him. In conjunction with the film, musician/producer/songwriter Gurf Morlix released Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream as a tribute to his late friend. Morlix used to play guitar for Foley and has recorded his own Foley-inspired song, “Music You Mighta Made,” so the album is a labor of love at its heart. Fortunately, it’s also a very strong batch of songs that serves as an excellent introduction to his friend’s music.

Foley wrote with an eye for detail mixed with a tongue-in-cheek, humorous style that seems to be prevalent among Texas songwriters; many of these songs wouldn’t have been out of place on a Hayes Carll, Guy Clark or Robert Earl Keen album. The two opening tracks, “Baby Can I Crawl Back to You” and “Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries,” set a lighthearted tone, but Morlix chose a nice representation of Foley’s work. For every song that’s as outright goofy as the title track, there’s one like “Cold Cold World,” which hits levels of bleakness that rival Hank Williams in his most despairing moments.

Two of Foley’s best-known pieces, “Clay Pigeons” and “If I Could Only Fly,” are among the highlights. Morlix’s growl on the latter song doesn’t compare to Haggard’s version, or more recently, Joe Nichols’, but the longing in his voice makes up for the lack of polish.

Searching the internet for stories and videos of and about Blaze Foley is a fascinating way to spend a few hours. Townes Van Zandt, who knew a bit about being a troubled genius, said of him, “He’s only gone crazy once. Decided to stay.” He decorated his clothes with duct tape. He spent most of his professional career sleeping on friends’ couches or wherever else he could find shelter. He got banned from the Kerrville Folk Festival for singing in exacting detail what he’d like to do to dictator Idi Amin.

Given that his own recordings are rather limited (the masters for one studio album were confiscated by the DEA, according to legend), it’s pretty likely that most people who listen to this album have never heard these songs and almost certainly never heard Foley sing them. Unlike some tribute albums that can become almost too reverent, Morlix doesn’t present the material as sterile, staid antiquities. They’re every bit as contemporary and vivid as they were when Foley wrote them 20-plus years ago, and they should help bring a new appreciation for a very flawed but very gifted songwriter.

4 Stars

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