I Love Alex McMurray, Everybody's Favorite Songwriter

Offbeat Magazine Banjaxed

Back From Tokyo

Offbeat Magazine by Christen Hardy

McMurray says that Banjaxed, the title of his first solo album, is Irish slang for being "frustrated or stymied via a fuckup, usually involving booze."

"Effortless Binge" is standard Alex McMurray fare, but like most of his solo album, it is a bit more vulnerable, both lyrically and musically, than his previous efforts. I typically shy away from songs that include holidays/neighborhoods/themes that are exclusive to New Orleans, but McMurray's "The Day After Mardi Gras Day" is the most accurate description of the empty feeling that creeps in immediately following Fat Tuesday I've ever heard.

"Your pocket's a little lighter/ You're reelin' in the dawn/ You make your way down Esplanade/ After everybody's gone"

It's the kind of description that I didn't even know I needed until I heard it.

McMurray establishes this emotional connection by making his songs intensely personal, by using details that could not possibly apply to everyone, yet somehow do.

On the possibility of getting a new record deal as a result of shopping Banjaxed, McMurray is diplomatic. He would like to get one, he says, but says that he won't be heartbroken if it doesn't happen.

Banjaxed is the result of McMurray's return to New Orleans. It was started before the trip to Tokyo, and Carlo Nuccio tracked the drums while McMurray was in Japan.

While recording Banjaxed, McMurray consciously strayed from the road he'd taken with Royal Fingerbowl. He admits that Banjaxed is basically what a Royal Fingerbowl record would be at this point (many of the same players, same songwriter). The pressure McMurray felt in the last days with Royal Fingerbowl has dissipated some.

"This time I just recorded it where I live," he says. Does he mean that the recording is stripped-down and authentic? Or does he mean that it was recorded in his house? McMurray continues, "We recorded it in the back room of the house where I live."

He stresses the point that his solo album is the product of making a record just for the sake of getting the songs out there. As a result, the final product, a collection of 15 songs, will doubtlessly be called lazy by some people. McMurray admits that there are "definitely time problems." This is to be expected from a session that focused on the songs rather than a click track. Other than the time issue, and the occasional buzz (on the bowed bass track), Banjaxed is a stellar example of McMurray's talent. His songs are simple narratives of sincere characters over melodies that embody a confident maturity.

Although McMurray says of the album, "I just went in and I sang with a guitar…then I just walked away," it is clearly a focused endeavor. McMurray compiled a band of locals that includes James Singleton on bass, Bob Andrews playing organ and piano, and Glenn Hartman playing the accordion.

"I like the tunes," McMurray says, "and I think people should hear them."

The second to last song on Banjaxed, "Barry's Fashion Lighters," is a bit of amusing lounge music tucked into an otherwise solemn collection of songs. McMurray's decision to include such a light number isn't surprising; McMurray does this regularly in his live sets, as well as in conversation. He will talk openly for a few minutes about his first trip to Europe, playing with a gospel band, and the pride he felt, getting paid to go to Europe. "That was a huge victory," he says.