Murzik is not your run-of-the-mill folk ensemble.
Started in Minneapolis almost a decade ago, Bryan Steenerson chose to draw on diverse but interestingly cohesive elements to come up with a unique sound that he's dubbed "dark folk."
Combining acoustic and electric guitars with accordions and even the glockenspiel; combining the zestiness of gypsy swing with the somber tones of some Eastern European folk music; channeling the basso profundo vocal approach of a certain Canadian songwriter -- well, Murzik sounds like Leonard Cohen, the Klezmatics, Nick Cave and Jacques Brel all mixed up in some sonic blender.
It's singularly creative, innovative and refreshing, and the handle "dark folk" seems to capture the overall tone quite well.
For much of their career, Murzik (under Steenerson's baton) has used a rotating cast of musicians that always gives "live" performances a certain vigor, not to mention keeping the players on their toes.
There's a definite minor key vibe that comingles with the lyrics' darker shades lending a very distinct flavor to "A Cat Named Murzik."
"Poison Tears" blends a flamenco feel with driving percussion and features an undulating middle section, following the first verses, that almost stops time and leads ultimately to a peppy little conclusion.
"River Of Love" channels Leonard Cohen's vocal style with droll, almost disinterested, spoken vocals over a perky music bed and wildly picturesque lyrics: "We were entwined together like a vine, your bark was hard and my leaves were soft and the moon was all we'd see; our roots twisted together and grew deeper in love's pain, but the river was all to remain."
With a chorus that goes, "If you fell into the ocean, I don't think that I would care," suffice it to say that "Saint Andreas" isn't a love song.
Murzik has been featured on National Public Radio and Minnesota Public Radio, and they've even had a U of M student base his master's thesis on their sound.
The group name comes from a Russian reference to cats. Does that make this new disc's title (this is the group's fourth disc) actually read "A Cat Named Cat?"
Don't worry about the feline connection, just check out the fresh, but dark, sound of this Twin Cities ensemble.
Murzik / "A Cat Named Murzik"
Genre: Dark folk
Label: Pipe Club Records
Recorded at: Aladdin Studios
Produced by: Bryan Steenerson
Personnel: Bryan Steenerson (vocals, guitar), Nathan Simar (accordion, vocals), Christopher Becknell (violin), Ryan Pfeiffer (cello), Alex Budrow (drums), Jeremy Grace (piano), Darin Steenerson (bass), Alex Proctor (bass)
Upcoming gig: 10 p.m. Saturday at Fitger's Brewhouse, 600 E. Superior St., Duluth; (218) 726-1392
John Ziegler has worked in the music industry for 38 years as a radio host, interviewer, record producer and professional musician.