Eleanor Murray has spent the last seven years playing and recording music out of the northwest part of the United States. Her five albums and hundreds of live shows have established her as a prolific force in indie folk music.
Her debut album, For Cedar, came out in 2008 on Anonymous Monk Records. While her live shows up until then had largely been just her and an acoustic guitar, the majority of the album was filled out by violin, bass, and drums. The album’s ten songs had firm roots in American folk and country traditions – with weighty folk ballads like “Electric Sky” and “Midwest Winter,” the troubadour themes in “Joseph’s Song,” and the bluegrass swing of “River.” The album had some brief forays into other influences, with the slow build and heavy D-tuned climax of “Healing” and the mournful waltz of “The Last Meal” both showing other sides of Eleanor Murray.
In 2009, Anonymous Monk released the Little Warrior EP. Produced by long-time K Records engineer, Ben Hargett (Lake, Arrington de Dionyso), the album’s eight songs spanned the musical map – from reverb-drenched epics to tender folk ballads. Though many of the songs were serious in tone, the album had an almost playful feel due to the range of material and the instrumental interludes that gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the recording process. The difference between the lo-fi folk of the album’s opener, “Red Spider, Red Star” and the sinister build and intense chanting of the next song, “The Fox,” is vast and this degree of dissimilarity, stylistically-speaking, holds true for each of the songs that follow. The album’s title track is the nexus that holds the EP together. A methodically woven folk song that builds into dizzying vocal rounds, its solidity providing a backbone for the entire collection of songs. Little Warrior gave the first signs of Murray experimenting and pushing the bounds of modern folk music. The album was followed by a two month U.S. tour with solo musician and For Cedar producer, Ben Kamen.
2010’s Oh Thunder presented listeners with even more previously-unheard sides of Eleanor Murray, but in a way that was more conceptual than on the previous year’s EP. Released on Bicycle Records and recorded by Olympia go-to producer, Bob Schwenkler (Seapony, Explode Into Colors, Jeremy Jay), Oh Thunder’s tone gets set immediately on its opening track, “Come Alive.” The bright wind chimes that open the song, by the end, descend into a foreboding refrain of winter’s fires, setting up the push and pull that defines the album. Tonally and thematically, the album makes good on the storm predicted in its title. The song arrangement recalls the way nature’s chaos can have its moments of quiet, how the brightest skies can immediately follow the darkest. The ominous march of “Scream,” the hauntingly sparse waltz in “Trails of Star,” the opposing forces of “Hush (Smash),” and the sharp changes in “Street to Ride,” were all strikingly new styles that bore little resemblance to material from earlier albums. The album was followed by a month-long tour of the west coast and southwest parts of the United States, as well as a two week tour of the East Coast.
In 2011, Talking Helps Records put out Thunderling, a reinterpretation of Oh Thunder released only on vinyl. Recorded with a new band and minimal overdubbing, the album takes on a completely different feel than its predecessor. “The Whale” is extended to almost twice its original length, the second half building into a thick wall of sound. “When a Heart Becomes a Heart” is also extended, becoming almost two songs in one, making the song into a folk epic that recalls the work of Townes Van Zandt. The album’s instrumental song, “February 17th,” is filled out with the full band, becoming mildly reminiscent of the more subdued material of Dirty Three. “Careful Broken” is replaced with a re-recording of “Cathedral,” originally released on Little Warrior, giving it a fresh interpretation, stripped of all the production of its former version. The release of Thunderling kicked off a two month tour of the U.S., which took her and her band to 34 states, playing 55 shows in 60 days.
In the two years since Thunderling, Eleanor Murray has been busy. She’s done an artist-in-residency at The Beauty Shop in Fairfield, Iowa; written over 100 songs; played over 100 shows; and recorded two full length albums with side projects, as well as her new long-awaited solo album. Bury Me Into the Mtn, the solo album that has come from that time, was recorded in a renovated church during a windstorm with members of Mount Eerie serving as her backing band. Again, a new album finds Eleanor Murray exploring work that is markedly different from any that has come before. Bury Me Into the Mtn’s chord progressions, rhythms and melodies draw as much from Appalachia as they do from jazz. Its lyrics are as cryptic as they are simple and straightforward. Its sonic landscape is completely its own. Its a work that is adventurous and creates excitement in its restrain. Its Fall 2013 release will be followed by both east and west coast tours of the U.S.
With her wide range of influences, Eleanor Murray creates a wide range of music. Not only in her solo work, but also with her side projects. Currently she fronts both the post rock group, AANTARCTICAA, and the bluegrass duo, Tattered Dress. In the hundreds of shows she’s played over the years, she’s shared the stage with artists such as: Tune-yards, Mountain Man, Kimya Dawson, Spirits of the Red City, The Hive Dwellers, Ages and Ages, Vincent Moon, Kendl Winter, Yesway, Ashley Eriksson, The Curious Mystery, Lindefelt, Thousands, J.P. Haynie, French Quarter, and Shenandoah Davis.
“…one of our best “unknown” musicians.” – Tiny Mix Tapes
“One moment you think you have Eleanor Murray figured out, but then she shows you that she’s not an easy catch. You cannot draw a square around her and call it good – she is undefinable.” – Fensepost
“Eleanor Murray is impossibly good…To call her folky would be undercutting the beauty of what she does.” – SSG Music
“Ms. Murray is bound for greatness; anyone who sees her play live is, pretty instantly, a fan.” – Letters With Mixtapes