By Matthew Kaminski
Having heard “The Many Moods of Murry Wilson” and more recently, the digital EP Murry Wilson And Snow, I was not sure what I was going to get when I purchased George Faulkner Sings Murry Wilson, but I was definitely intrigued enough to find out! Being a musician myself (organist, pianist, accordionist), I’m familiar with the musical stylings that inspired The Many Moods Of Murry Wilson album. I’ve spent many hours playing and listening to music written in the 1920s – 50s and am quite familiar with the lush orchestrations of bandleaders like Lawrence Welk. What many may consider ‘cheeseball’ or ‘outdated’ music, I tend to listen to from a musician’s perspective, seeing the rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and orchestration as unique and beautiful in their own ways. George Faulkner Sings Murry Wilson caught me by surprise as it both keeps the spirit of “The Many Moods” sound and combines it with various other styles while treating the music with respect. Mr. Faulkner could have easily gone more into making fun of the man who has had so much written about him, but, thankfully, he does not. There’s so much variety in the songs presented here, and they’re all very well-recorded, using exceptional musicians that backup Faulkner’s stellar lead vocals.
“For You and Me” kicks off the album with a Sing Along With Mitch (Miller) style featuring the Dixieland trombone playing of J. Walter Hawkes. Very patriotic in its lyrics, this tune could easily be used for an Armed Forces recruitment commercial. The album immediately takes a 180-degree turn with the second track, “So Much in Love,” which dives into a more “power pop” type of song (a la The Raspberries). Faulkner’s voice really shines on this track, supported by Mark Ambor on background vocals. “I’ll Hide My Tears From You” gives us a glimpse of Murry’s writing in a more 50’s ‘doo-wop’ style, along with some heavier, rockabilly guitar playing by Kevin Basko. Faulkner’s voice carries this tune, recorded with an old school slapback delay. I imagine Murry being influenced by Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity,” which also has the same time feel. This is one of my favorites on the album and it showcases Murry’s writing, both lyrically and melodically. “Young Love is Everywhere” harkens to an even older swing style, a salute to the roaring twenties with ukulele and trombone. The two-part harmonies by Faulkner and Daria Grace are so sweet and perfectly fit the style. Murry’s big hit, “Two Step, Side Step” gets more of a New Orleans treatment, with Faulkner’s voice fitting the style beautifully. The clarinet playing by James Noyes and trombone playing by Ricky Tegtmeier really propel this song forward and make it swing! “Taber Inn” closes out the first side with a cameo by Wyatt Funderburk from “Sail On” on background vocals. Kitty and Lewis Durham provide the instrumentation; that’s absolutely perfect for this lovely song, which is another one of my favorites on the album.
Side Two brings us a holiday number, “Happy, Happy Holiday” that’s quite a catchy tune, with some nice falsetto background vocals. It would have fit well on The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album or even The Monkees’ 2018 Christmas Party album. “Last Year Senior Prom (This Year Vietnam),” co-written by Thelma M. Parker, is a ’50s style, crooner type of song where Faulkner and Daria Grace deliver a stunningly beautiful vocal performance. However, the innocent-sounding style seems a little off, given the subject matter of a guy being shipped off to Vietnam. “Te-e-e-e-es-ax” features the fine guitar playing of Dave Bahssin and the lap steel guitar of Ambrose Verdibello (who’s playing reminded me of Red Rhodes’ playing on The Beach Boys single version of “Cotton Fields”), and harken to the days of Western swing with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. “I’m Painting With Teardrops of Blue” gets a more rockin’ country treatment. It’s another favorite of mine from this album, and Kevin Basko does a fine job producing this track and giving the right hard-driving feel while providing a nod to the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens. “From Kris With Love” is a love song that rounds out the album, also co-written by Thelma M. Parker. It’s fitting that George Faulkner closes the album with a beautiful vocal that soars above the track.
Included with the purchase of the vinyl LP is a postcard of the cover artwork by Peter Bagge, various stickers (including one with the Brother Records logo that’s really cool), and a letter from Mr. Faulkner. Moreover, on the back cover of the album is a message from David Marks explaining his complicated relationship with Murry. In this age of digital music, I’m grateful for artists like George Faulkner who put the time and effort, devote countless hours producing a quality vinyl product. Shipping vinyl records these days comes with a cost, but it’s well worth it for George Faulkner Sings Murry Wilson.
Do yourself a favor and order this unique recording with open eyes and ears!