Gary Murray’s discography is characterized by a certain world-weariness that’s rendered transcendent through his lush blend of slowcore and dreampop. So it only makes sense that he’d cover “Wayfaring Stranger” on his recently released Morningbird EP (the follow-up to last year’s excellent Monkeys & Spoons). One of America’s most indelible folk songs, it’s been covered by the likes of Paul Robeson, Emmylou Harris, and Johnny Cash (to name a few).
Murray’s take begins with the dusty strains of “The Old Rugged Cross” (another classic traditional) before transitioning into gracefully reverbed guitars and brushed percussion. In that hushed-yet-roughhewn baritone of his, Murray sings of “traveling through this world of woe” and yearning for a “bright land” free of sickness and danger where he’ll be reunited with his parents. (The song’s lyrics take on added heft when you remember that Murray’s mother died in 2020, and his father in 2022.)
With its country-tinged tones and atmospherics — a bit of twang can be heard in both Murray’s voice as well as the countless layers of reverb — Morningbird is yet another worthwhile release from one of America’s best unsung songwriters.