Live: Murry Hammond/Tody Castillo/Arthur Yoria/Krista Vossler and Luke Kalloch
Murry Hammond. Photo by Chris Strother.
WALTER'S ON WASHINGTON -- 4/27/08: It was Sunday evening and it was getting late. Another weekend was about to give way to a work week. But wasn't giving in yet. I decided to venture out anyway, into the cool, dark night to Houston's Washington Avenue while the rest of the city headed to bed. As I pulled up to Walter's on Washington, I couldn't believe how few cars were there -- I almost got to park in the miniscule parking lot, only two cars on the street. I was shocked. I mean, Murry Hammond, the coolest, railroad-lovingest part of Old 97's was playing; this was the event of the year on my musical calendar. I was primed because I'd been listening to Murry's newly released solo debut album, I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way, on last.fm, and I'd been totally blown away and couldn't wait to get a copy of my own.
My friend and his wife were already inside Walter's -- like I said, I was running late -- they had good things to say, though, about earlier openers from Austin Krista Vossler and Luke Kalloch, and I missed local boy Arthur Yoria, too. I did get to see Houston's own Tody Castillo's set, which was good. I hadn't seen him in a while and was impressed with his new stuff (now available on iTunes, he told me). His banter with the audience put everybody at ease, and they listened and seemed to enjoy his songwriting. The night was definitely a singer-songwriter night, where you just took a seat, enjoyed the music, and listened to the lyrics. It was something I longed for; there'd been too many nights of max-volume and inaudible lyrics for me lately. Tody gave way after about an hour and introduced the man of the evening, Murry Hammond. And the crowd of about 30 people were obviously there to see Murry, because no one had left.
While Murry got set up on stage, I looked down and saw a piece of paper on the floor. I picked it up and showed it my friend. I thought it was interesting; it was a Guitar Center receipt for a cable, a stand, and some strings or something, and the total was like $90. I thought "man, only a dedicated musician would spend that kind of money on a Sunday night, no-cover show that obviously wasn't going to pay too much." I put the receipt in my pocket to take home to show to my wife, who is a musician herself.
When Murry was ready, he opened in his patented, good-ol'-Murry way, saying, "Hi, everybody." And then he started into a chilling version of "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?," and the crowd was silent, totally tuned in, and -- can I say "reverent" (at least I was) about a show in a night club? My friend next to me, who I'd guess is this city's only alt-country pastor/worship leader, was taken aback and just said, "Nice." Then Murry continued on with songs from his new solo album.
Watching Murry, all I could think was "this guy is a pro." He's totally honed his craft with all those countless Old 97's gigs, plus his Ranchero Brothers shows with Rhett, plus singing his gospel roots music every Wednesday at his local church in California. The guy's pipes have put in the work, so much so that when he goes into his yodels and humming -- which are featured on his songs and are the backbone of almost every Old 97's song -- it's very moving. I'd never thought I'd look forward to the yodeling part of a song. Man, what's happened to me -- I like yodeling? But in Murry's songs, I do.
Then Murry mixed in some of the Old 97's classics that he'd penned, like "Valentine" and "Crash on the Barrel Head." After that, he played "Color Of A Lonely Heart Is Blue," off the Old 97's new album, Blame It On Gravity. It's an instant heart-breaking, gaze-at-the-starry-sky classic.
On the song "I Never Will Marry," a Carter Family cover, Murry played the harmonium as he sang about a lonesome life. Also memorable was Murry singing "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down." Murry ended the evening playing some requests, talking to the audience, and thanking his friends and host for giving him a place to sleep for the night and wishing one of them a happy birthday.
Oh, and when I got home and showed my wife the Guitar Center receipt I'd found and kept as a reminder of some dedicated musician, she noticed something I had missed. The receipt had a name on it -- the name was Murry Hammond. END