Even with nine solo albums to his credit - all released since 2000 - Gurf Morlix is best known as a sideman to the stars. As both a producer and session player, his credits have come to include works by such stellar luminaries as Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier, Ian McLagan, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Slaid Cleaves. Its little wonder; being proficient on guitar, bass, drums, banjo, harmonica, Dobro, pedal steel and mandolin has not only made him an invaluable part of many an instrumental arsenal, but also recognition from the Americana Music Association as their Instrumentalist of the Year for 2009.
Given those credentials and the esteem he's earned from his colleagues and contemporaries, one might think Morlix's own output would possess a larger quotient of spark and spirit, not to mention its own A-level list of contributors. That's rarely the case however, and on his new effort, the sordid-sounding "Eatin' At Me," Morlix maintains a remarkably low profile, beginning with the hushed, hard luck tale "Dirty Old Buffalo" (spoiler alert: denizens of upstate New York may have to swallow their pride) and the dark despair of "Grab the Wheel." The swoon, sway and stomp that echoes through "Elephant's Graveyard" marks a slight transition, and aside from the solitary solace of "Blue Smoke" and "50 Years," Morlix makes a point of amping things up on the backside. That's especially evident in the swagger he instills in "The Dog I Am" and the jaunty lope he finds with "Dinah."
At this point in his career, Morlix could have been used this opportunity to shore up his credence rather than take what's arguably a somewhat shadowy approach. Perhaps it's merely a credit to his humility that he opts to remain under the radar. Regardless, "Eatin' At Me" provides what is indeed a tasty soiree.