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Gary Myrick

Our critics' picks in new releases

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Waltz of the Scarecrow King conjures up a remarkable series of moods: It's occult and malevolent, eerie and disconcerting, exquisitely delicate and oddly beautiful, kind of a Blair Witch Project for the ears. But before you pull the covers over your head, this is a thoroughly listenable CD of solidly-crafted songs, too.

Dallas singer-songwriter Gary Myrick recorded the whole thing solo, later overdubbing a stand-up bass and a string quartet in homage to some of his favorite recordings from the 1960s. It's the strings that give Scarecrow King its unique sound, providing dramatic stings, ethereal touches, and an occasional, off-center "I Am The Walrus" edge; it's also provided by the 1894 Washburn parlor guitar and the '70s square neck dobro he plays here. They all combine to make Scarecrow King a unique and intensely personal musical experience.

Myrick's musical point of view comes from a place as lonely as the one occupied by the scarecrow in his title tune: "Hungry birds pick at his words, silence is his gun, under the blazing sun." In "Hometown Waltz," that loneliness seems like an inevitable fact of life: "People they all move on, we walk this world alone/dance with me for a time, for then I will be gone."

Throughout Scarecrow King, Myrick seems to have his finger on the pulse of what it means to be frail, human and subject to limitations. In "Fame is Dangerous," he sings, "I saw my best friend die in a fight with himself/the hurt of holding on to the lie is too much." On "Redeemer," he predicts, "There's a whole lot of holes in the highway, a whole lot of rain up ahead." Can anyone doubt that we're all on that road?

Still, the fact that Myrick can sing "The ghost of Elvis is flying above us, throwing rose petals and little cheeseburgers" with complete conviction attests to a taste for whimsy--a taste that keeps the album from getting bogged down in its own pretensions.

Although this is his first solo acoustic release, Myrick is a grammy-nominated musician who's played with the likes of Jackson Browne, Stevie Wonder, Queen Ida, Bonnie Raitt, Todd Rundgren, The Eagles, The Clash's Paul Simonon and The Sex Pistols' Steve Jones. Scarecrow King demonstrates that Myrick, as a solo artist, is more than capable of making us sit up, ponder a bit, and give him the attention he deserves.

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