Gurf Morlix has played with and produced records for many prominent artists with ties to the Austin music scene, including Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams and Ian McLagan (of The Faces).
But none has had a bigger impact on him than Blaze Foley, a little-known but legendary Austin songwriter. Morlix’s show at Hill Country on May 15 is billed as “A Blaze Foley Experience,” which will include some of Foley’s songs and clips from a documentary film about his life.
Before Foley was shot dead in 1989, “he was my best friend and running buddy,” said Morlix, who plays guitar and other instruments. “We met in Austin and he kind of attached himself to me, living on my couch for years. We played hundreds of shows together.”
Filmmaker Kevin Triplett spent 12 years making “Duct Tape Messiah,” the Foley documentary. “I watched it come together over those 12 years, he did an amazing job,” said Morlix. “I find it interesting that the film is about a homeless alcoholic songwriter who never had any success, and ended up getting murdered, yet at the end everyone in the audience feels uplifted.”
Foley helped instill in Morlix a passion for writing powerful songs by not settling for anything less than his best effort. An idea for a song might begin with an overheard phrase or just the sound of one chord, but the process gets harder from there. His latest record, “The Soul and the Heal,” includes a tune that was inspired by a conversation with former Faces keyboard player McLagan, a week before his death. His previous album, “Eatin’ at Me,” had some great songs about growing up in Buffalo, N.Y.
These days Morlix writes most of his songs at a cabin in Canada where he spends every summer, escaping the heat and hustle of Austin. “Not off the grid, but close to it,” he said. “No internet, no phone at the cabin. It’s what I live for, why I work so hard the rest of the year.”
Although Morlix has collaborated with a lot of great songwriters, many people know him mainly through his work with Lucinda Williams. He produced and played on her first two records. During the sessions for “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” the two had a falling out, and although he played on the final tracks, she hired a different producer.
“I love some of her songs,” said Morlix. “But the making of ‘Car Wheels’ was more than difficult, and it didn’t have to be. I don’t particularly like the sound of that album. I hear what it might have been.”
Bettye LaVette, the Wooks
Bettye LaVette started out as an R&B singer, making her DC debut at the Howard Theater in the ‘60s. These days she’s simply one of the greatest singers in the world, who can own any song she chooses to perform, in any genre.
LaVette has covered a lot of songs by British Invasion bands, and her performance of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” at the Kennedy Center a few years ago went viral (deservedly). She also recorded an album with The Drive-By Truckers that included the old George Jones hit, “Choices.”
Now LaVette has released an album of Bob Dylan titles, “Things Have Changed,” the song with which Dylan often opens his own shows. It includes classics such as “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” but also some deep covers from Dylan’s more obscure records. LaVette will perform selections from the album at The Hamilton on May 19.
The Wooks come from Kentucky and they’re rooted in bluegrass and mountain music, but like many younger string-ish bands these days they wear their rock influences proudly, billing themselves as “Real Kentucky Rhythm and Bluegrass.” They’ll kick off this year’s American Roots Music Series on the lawn at the Hill Center on May 20. The show is free; doors open at 4 p.m. and the show starts at 4:30.