On Vaporizer by Joe Wenderoth

With the release of Vaporizer, Jason Morphew establishes himself as one of the most gifted songwriters now going. Having listened to a good bit of his previous work, I was aware of this gift of his, but with Vaporizer, everything has come together in a new and appropriate way. This may have something to do with the way this album has been produced, but it’s not just that. The songs themselves—melodically and lyrically—seem possessed of a new and unusual clarity. I think of Willie Nelson’s The IRS Tapes, not because The IRS Tapes have a similar sound (they don’t), but because that album, too, is an instance of a performer’s coming into a new and appropriate degree of clarity. It’s something like when you can’t get a radio station to come in without static, and then suddenly there it is, clear, closer to you. This sort of clarity is rare, of course, and when it occurs I always feel a strange sort of release. This is probably my being released from the habitual mode—the mode in which I am always largely critical, skeptical, of the songs I am encountering. The clarity I am talking about disallows that critical mode—it is like someone suddenly too close to you—too close for you to not see him as fully human. This kind of clarity also produces a sense that genre has been obliterated, or rendered radically less significant. The songs on Vaporizer could be called pop, country, ballad, dance, and any number of other things, but I never have the sense that there is any real danger of their being relegated to those categories. The voice and the melody are too compelling—they secure the songs in something much closer to us, which I would call simply song. In that realm—the realm I call simply song—one does not listen in order that one might hear something new, something novel, or in order to pass the time. Songs, when they achieve this degree of being songs, do not allow one to pass the time—they insist upon something contrary—something like: these songs are time, and time cannot be passed, cannot be gotten around. In this way, such songs are dangerous: they do not offer a way out—they offer a way in.

Joe Wenderoth, corruptor of youths. author of books (Letters to Wendy’s, No Real Light, and Agony: A Proposal among them) which are in the process of being translated into sound and image and excerpted to you-tube and facebook (facebook seems like it gets better resolution). Wenderoth is originally from The Land Of Pleasant Living and lives now in a large room usually referred to as California where he teaches in the Creative Writing program at UC-Davis.

Purchase the album on Amazon


Holding Merle Haggard 12″ Vinyl Reissue Available

it’s done, and it’s exactly as we’d hoped it’d be–go the Releases page on this site and get you one–

here’s the press release we’re using:

In the summer of 1995, Jason Morphew holed up in Arkansas with a four-track, a broken heart, and a five-string guitar and recorded a concept album for a fledgling cassette label in New York called Brassland. The album’s concept: a young Arkie couple that adores Merle Haggard heads out to California to see the great man perform in his native Bakersfield. Merle picks the woman out of the audience, invites her backstage. Soon the woman hops on Merle’s tour bus and leaves her boyfriend stranded in the swirling, golden dust.

Over the years, *Holding Merle Haggard* has become a cult’s cult-classic; it’s achieved a sort of double-underground legendary status. Morphew’s gotten fan mail from Japan and France about it, been offered major label contracts because of it, been informed in no uncertain terms by many people that he’ll never top it.

Now, here’s the deluxe 12″ vinyl version of the classic (one inch for every year since it was first released), remastered from the original recordings, with four bonus tracks, lots of liner notes, and a beautiful, original Baxter Knowlton painting on the cover to boot. Call it pre-alt-country, or pre-folk-nouveau, or a-confessional, or weirdly homoerotic, or end-y rock, or just real good–as usual, Morphew wasn’t aiming to do anything but write and record the songs the way they came to him, and his songs don’t seem to come to him attached to any genre.

Jason Morphew’s six full-lengths have been highly acclaimed in England and America. His music has appeared on movie soundtracks and on best-of compilations alongside Lucinda Williams, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Cowboy Junkies, and Bob Dylan, among others. His recordings have featured members of The Magnetic Fields and The Mars Volta, and his singles have been spun by such influential DJs as John Peel, Steve Lamacq, and Rodney Bingemheimer. He divides his time between a tiny city-house in Los Angeles and a tiny farm-house in Winters, California, in wine country, where Morphew often gets lost on curving country roads.