Murder By Death – Good Morning, Magpie
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Record Label: Vagrant
Isolated from the outside world, a man takes little more than a tent, a fishing pole, and a notebook deep into the Tennessee Mountains. He does nothing but hike, cook, or write. With no one to speak to, all he has is his thoughts and spacious terrain outside his tent. It is within these constraints that he creates his masterpiece.
It would be natural for you to think that this is the concept for Murder By Death’s fifth record (second for Vagrant), Good Morning, Magpie, especially since the last three records followed a specific theme. But think again. What I described to you was singer/guitarist Adam Turla’s 2009 retreat to write the new record. In fact, Magpie doesn’t have a theme; it’s a record composed of 11 tracks that can stand on their own.
Self-produced by the indie-folk outfit, Good Morning, Magpie contains some of the band’s most upbeat material, as well as some of their darkest work. Deep and well textured, the album is woven intricately with the threads of good times and bad. The first two tracks are an introduction to good times spent with alcohol. “Kentucky Bourbon” is a short intro that leads beautifully into “As Long As There Is Whiskey In The World,” which paced nicely by Sarah Balliet’s cello and features one of the best chorus’ in the Murder By Death’s canon. “On The Dark Streets Below” has a bit of a Latin flavor to it, as Spanish cabaret-styled horns and Matt Armstrong’s bass lines create a tango with the devil.
Balliet’s cello is the backbone of “King of the Gutters, Prince of the Dogs,” a slow track that’ll groove smoothly through your ears. On “Piece by Piece,” Turla speaks through the eyes of an old soul, while the title track is the ideal Murder By Death song. The cello is poignant, drummer Dagan Thogerson sets the pace, and Turla’s metaphors are rich and his voice soars. “Yes” may be the most fun song the band has ever composed, as guest vocalist Amber Frost's sweet voice backs Turla’s gruff tone. Armstrong’s plays a slide bass that gives the track a cool edge, while Thogerson’s drum part adds character. “Foxglove” is the closest thing we’ll get to a Murder By Death love song, as Turla waxes poetically about a lover and his isolation. “The Day” dramatically closes out Magpie; its vivid lyricism and vibrant composition will make it a definite fan favorite.
Good Morning, Magpie may be the strongest album in Murder By Death’s incredible discography. The variety of the disc sets it apart from previous albums, and while the quartet maintain some elements from older work, the band tried a lot of new things, took a different writing approach, and nailed it. Once again, Murder By Death has managed to encompass listeners with their most personal album yet.
The vocal production of this album is on the same level as a lot of the instruments. From time to time Adam blends in with the instruments and it bothers me. I don't think this disc is very strong. I was rather disappointed with it, to be honest.