The ninth album from Gurf Morlix, the ace Austin producer and guitarist, finds him digging deeper and seeing the light. On The Soul and the Heal (out February 3 on Rootball Records), the deep is dark. The light is love. If you were to engage in Gurf-style wordplay, you might term “Love Remains Unbroken” the trite and true, becomes sometimes the deepest truth lies with the stuff that has been repeated so often it has become a cliché. And so it is with love, “the only thing that’s real,” according to Morlix. That same light illuminates “Move Someone,” “Quicksilver Kiss” and the reggae celebration of the moment that is “Right Now,” all of them soulful songs of healing, even if he still sometimes sounds like he’s singing through gritted teeth.
For life is a cycle of hurting and healing, and though this is the first album Gurf has recorded since the passing of his close friend Ian McLagan (whose keyboard chair Nick Connolly fills admirably), you can hear the spirit of Mac and his loss permeating the song cycle, in every organ swell, in every admonition to love while you can, to live every breath. Gurf hasn’t gone all smiley face on us; it’s the darkness that reveals the light and makes it crucial. And there’s plenty of darkness here—“black as coal,” he sings in the opening “Deeper Down,” a song about trying to extricate yourself from the hole that the same self has dug. “All I know how to do is dig deeper down,” he sings. As always, every note is in place and not one is wasted—the arrangements are elemental, organic, the spare interplay almost telepathic. And by the time the song cycle has come full circle, with the album-ending “The Best We Can,” you realize that the “tawdry little lives” we live may not be easy, but they’re worth every heartbeat. And they’re all we have.