The Great Unknown
One of the most interesting of Savannah's newest crop of acoustic artists, Sincerely, Iris makes music that gleefully gallops across easy categorization. These songs veer from spacey, modal musing to hyperdrive rock to highly melodic and structured pop, each with a lyrical knife's edge that puts them into that fabulously rich and never specific singer/songwriter territory.
Still, the most primal joy of The Great Unknown is in the fabric of the DIY recording itself - Todd Murray, who is Sincerely, Iris, has overdubbed every instrument, including bass, percussion, keyboards and electric guitar. His acoustic guitar is always in the forefront, using open tunings, octave chords, strange-sounding fingerpicking counterpoints, classical motifs and flourishes of jazz and flamenco.
The juxtaposition, strangely, works, creating an enormously satisfying musical tapestry.
Murray has been compared, frequently, to Jeff Buckley, and you can hear it in the yearning, almost melancholy of his lyrics and the moodiness of his vocals. "She Moves Me" and the exquisite, waltz-time "Dear Clementine" have echoes of early Gordon Lightfoot, and the spectral images of jazz-era Joni, non-twee Sufjan and early Iron & Wine appear from time to time.
The one I keep coming back to is "The Great Unknown," the album's title song. Starting with the nostalgic sound of a film projector, it's a road song - a salute, no doubt, to Murray's days as a Chicago-based traveler and ever-hungry touring performer. This song has a melody that won't leave me alone, and a brilliant guitar figure that evokes an open road, full of endless possibilities.
The past is only a fading ghost. So I give it away to the great unknown.
Along with Dare Dukes, whose second studio recording is due to arrive early in the New Year, Sincerely, Iris is evidence that Savannah, despite its ripe rock ‘n' rollers, eclectic hipster groups and the myriad other talismans of musical fertility, has one hell of an acoustic punch.
(The Great Unknown is available at sincerelyiris.bandcamp.com. Physical CDs, and ITunes availability, are forthcoming.)
Sincerely, Iris: Press
"Also more than just your garden–variety acoustic balladeer is Todd Murray, a recent arrival in the Hostess City from the midwest. Performing as Sincerely, Iris (yes, that’s his stage name) Murray – at Tantra Lounge Jan. 10 – isn’t just a G–chord strummer. He writes thoughtful, interesting and melodic songs using open tunings and visionary fingerings. If you must, think of Jeff Buckley melancholia, Cat Power simplicity and the oblique dark–sky musings of mid–period Joni Mitchell. The Sincerely, Iris CD Headlight Sonata features Murray on 90 percent of the instruments. This is an artist to watch."
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On Our Radar: Sincerely, Iris
Posted by Jason Petros on April 23, 2009
Acoustic Singer/Songwriter Todd Murray is special. Not the “I eat paste” special – quite the opposite actually – his is the first local, acoustic music I’ve heard that melds folk and blues stylings successfully. It’s like a fried Twinkie – it really shouldn’t work together, but it does – and it is tasty. This man knows his way around an acoustic guitar, whether playing lead or rhythm he does so tastefully and in full control. Todd knows each songs destiny and puts his best foot forward presenting them on his recently recorded effort, Headlight Sonata. Although some might groan at the thought of some ass clown playing an acoustic guitar around a campfire (again, sigh) – Todd’s music moves, dynamically through different strum patterns, hard and soft exchanges, and some KT Tunstall-like chicka chicka’s to infuse what is normally left for the coffee house set with a new and unique sounding vibe. When you think of blues/folk you have to conjure bits and pieces of rock and roll history; ie, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Who – these bands knew how to steal successfully. They took music; new to the mainstream audience, and put into words and melodies that we could all understand. It takes a special ear and a yearning for what is inside one’s soul to connect with the blues and it takes a wordsmith with an observant mind to put honesty and articulation on top of these attributes. Now I’m not saying that Toddy Murray is the next Jimmy Page – actually far from it – but what I am saying is that Sincerely, Iris has found a way to create music that bites on these predecessors without sounding whiney or too over the top (see Greg Reed) – or being too steeped in traditional acoustic guitar playing. His album is missing drums – and that can make or break my comparisons really easily – but for what it is, it accomplishes everything the music is going for. He’s not afraid to get a little experimental – check out the bridge on “Diggin” – almost sounds like a guest spot from Andrew Bird. Also be sure to listen to the haunting, minor key song, “Don’t Let the Man Get You Down” – the production value here really surprised me, what sounded like a crappily recorded piano eventually attached to my mind like a Zebra Mussel and in the end had me saying ‘wow, that actually fit really good.’ All in all, with Sincerely, Iris, Todd Murray has tapped into a nice niche, the only question is, can he push it further? Is he strictly an acoustic guitar guy, or is this album simply an introduction to a stronger more powerful artist, backed by a real band and plugged in? I’m hoping for the latter.
It's massive so here's the link. http://www.billysbunker.com/view.php?nID=164&sort=genre&cat=All