Murry Hammond | I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way

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Murry Appears on the "Help Me to Sing" Sacred Harp compilation. Murry Hammond on MySpace

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United States - Texas

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Country: Old-Timey Folk: Alternative Folk Moods: Mood: Dreamy
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I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way

by Murry Hammond

Folk minimalism, gospel and spoken word, especially easy on the ears of fans of the Carter Family, raw acoustic Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
Genre: Country: Old-Timey
Release Date: 

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  song title
1. What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?
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3:44 album only
2. Between The Switches
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1:06 album only
3. Lost At Sea
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3:30 album only
4. I Never Will Marry
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5:17 album only
5. Wreck of the 97
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3:45 album only
6. Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad
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1:08 album only
7. Next Time Take the Train
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3:48 album only
8. Riding The Rods
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4:35 album only
9. Grainer
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3:22 album only
10. You Will Often Meet Obstruction
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1:42 album only
11. In The Shadow of Clinch Mountain
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2:57 album only
12. Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down I
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2:12 album only
13. Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down II
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3:47 album only
14. As You Roll Across The Trestle
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1:09 album only
15. Rainbow's End
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3:35 album only
16. Other, Younger Days
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4:35 album only
17. I Believe, I Believe
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4:36 album only
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Album Notes
Old 97’s bass player and co-frontman Murry Hammond celebrates the release of his first full-length album outside of the Old 97’s, with \"I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way.\"

Hammond has played many memorable solo shows over the years, but it was certain events in his life, including the death of both parents, leaving Texas to start a family in California, and a renewed spiritual sense, that inspired him to record I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way. Hammond has been given the credit — and to some, the blame — for the persistent roots influence found in the 97’s songwriting and sound, and that sound is found here in its distilled form. “Both in my own contributions and in co-writing with Rhett [Miller], I’ve always tended to push the chug of train songs, the soul of old-time songs and spirituals, the high-lonesome wail of mountain music, and the pure tuneful fun of singing cowboy music.” Hammond’s contributions have been some of the group’s most engaging, including the lament “Valentine” and “Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue,” and with Miller he co-wrote some of the group’s best-known songs, among them “Timebomb,” “Indefinitely” and “The New Kid.”

Hammond completed I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way over the course of 2007 in San Diego, California with producer Mark Neill, with whom Hammond worked on the Old 97’s 2004 release Drag It Up. The album uses all acoustic instruments (six- and twelve-string guitars, a harmonium pump-organ), cowboy poetry-style spoken word and instrumentals, and lots of “period” reverb to paint a psychological journey through a world of spiritual trouble and triumph, restlessness, hope, loss, longing, regret, and wonder. Train songs and spirituals abound as Hammond displays his love of all things Carter Family, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, but with the twist of incorporating the moody approach of ambient artists such as Brian Eno. Like that of his heroes, the music has a minimalist heart, at once serene and severe.

For three months prior to the CD\'s August 2008 street date, the album was made available exclusively at Old 97’s shows and through special mail-order. Hammond wished to capitalize on fan anticipation of the album’s release in order to raise funds for the non-profit organization Project Mercy. Project Mercy builds basic housing in the poorest sections around Tijuana, Mexico (similar in mission to Habitat for Humanity) using volunteer labor provided by area churches. A group of men and women from Hammond’s home church in Burbank, Calif. (where he performs roots gospel music weekly when he’s not traveling) have adopted the organization as a primary mission. Hammond was in a unique position to raise funds quickly, and in time to fund fall building before the 2008 winter sets in. The strategy has already paid off, for as of July 1st generous fans purchased enough CDs to pay for one house. The album will always be made available at Old 97’s shows, with 100% going to charitable groups such as Project Mercy.

Inspired by the grass-roots ethic of early punk record labels such as Dischord and Touch & Go, Hammond decided to operate DIY. He funded all facets of the CD from recording to manufacturing, and he distributes by dealing directly with independent music stores and mail-order houses. Although he also sells on one of the large online music sites that shall be unnamed here, Hammond wants you to know, “I fill all my own orders personally. It gives me a chance to occasionally write something thoughtful or joke-y on the mailing box.”

Hammond is also excited to have contributed a new track, “Bound for Canaan,” to a compilation of Sacred Harp music (also known as “shaped note singing”) that was produced by the filmmakers of Awake My Soul, a documentary film about the 200-year history of Sacred Harp worship singing in the U.S. The film was shown in 2007 and 2008 on 120 PBS stations, and was released this year on DVD. The compilation also features Innocence Mission, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Jim Lauderdale, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Woven Hand (ex-16 Horsepower), among others. The Awake My Soul audio CD is due later this year.

For the rest of 2008 Hammond will be performing solo dates between Old 97’s touring, and has also begun work on a follow-up project with producer Mark Neill.


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Murry Hammond: Ride This Train
“I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way,” the solo debut from Old 97’s bassist/vocalist Murry Hammond, sounds as you figure it would, if you consider the Old 97’s dynamic. Frontman Rhett Miller’s releases outside the band have for the most part contained bright, uptempo tracks laced with familiar touches of power pop. Hammond, used to standing stage left and stepping forward for an occasional lead vocal, has compiled a more low-key, mainly acoustic release for his first solo turn. Old 97’s fans: Think “Valentine” to get an idea of the basic sound of “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way.”

Hammond’s approach is not only logical, it’s entirely appropriate for the material. “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way” employs songs about religion and railroads to convey a journey at times mapped out and at others metaphoric, weaving together songs and spoken word, as the narrator seeks stability and spirituality.

Hardcore fans might already be familiar with Hammond’s disc. For two months before its national release, the album was available at Old 97’s shows and via mail order. Hammond made the album available early because he wanted to use its proceeds to raise money for the non-profit organization Project Mercy, which builds housing in Tijuana, Mexico, using volunteer labor provided by area churches. Hammond plans to have the album always available at Old 97’s shows, with future proceeds going to charitable groups.

“I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way” is mostly acoustic except for a bit of electric bass, an approach that contributes to the album’s decidedly old-time feel. Hammond has arranged his original songs among traditional or public domain material such as “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” and “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and Carter Family selections such as “I Never Will Marry” and “In The Shadow of Clinch Mountain.” He even wrote one song, “Riding The Rods,” around 1930s pulp-magazine poetry glorifying train travel. Throughout, Hammond’s presentation reminds the listener that themes of loss, love and wanderlust have been around for a long, long time.

Though it’s being released outside the Old 97’s, “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way” is in no way a departure for Hammond. Hymns are second nature to him; he performs gospel music at his home church in California when he isn’t touring. And original songs such as “Lost at Sea” and “Next Time Take The Train” bear the unmistakable stamp of Old 97’s, their chug and gentle, melodic flow carrying the listener from start to finish. Trains run through the blood of Hammond and his band.

From the careful art direction to the material to the arrangements, trains also steam through “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way.” But it’s more than a collection of train songs. The disc is carefully assembled, with crossfades that blend songs seamlessly and thoughtful placement of the material that ensures good flow from track to track. The instrumental “Grainer” sounds like a train rolling from station to station, barreling out of “Riding The Rods” and gradually slowing as it pulls into “You Will Often Meet Obstruction.” Small touches abound, such as the whispered prayer bouncing from the left side of the mix to the right between the instrumental and vocal versions of “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down.”

“I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way” is an accomplished debut, and sheds further light on Hammond’s contributions to the Old 97’s aesthetic. Though it’s a little moody and mellow to make it right for all occasions, the album is a thoroughly engaging listen, and one likely to get listeners wrapped up in the long-lost romance of train travel. Hammond seems to know it, and in songs such as “Next Time Take The Train” he appeals to the free spirit in each of us:

Trains roll in the hearts of men
And freedom rides the one within
And every man’s the hobo he imagines.

Hammond may be accustomed to standing away from the spotlight, but “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way” shows that he doesn’t need to take a back seat to any member of the band.