When Gary Murray, the front-man and principal songwriter of the mysterious OH slow-core/folk-tinged band Ln announced that the band would be disbanding after the release of the full-length Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2, it added a sense of expectation, and perhaps even pressure, for the release. How would Ln end their impressive run of releases on CA’s Velvet Blue Music, on which the band has released 5 EP’s, 1 7” vinyl LP, and now their third full-length CD? For the band’s devoted following, Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2 is bitter sweet: it’s yet another full-length of music from a band whose intensely personal lyrics and delicate music has touched them deeply, but it also represents the last time that fans will hear new music from their beloved band. With such anticipation, and following the on the heels of its excellent previous namesake (Dirt Floor Hotel Part 1), Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2 had tough shoes to fill as a release.
One wonders if Murray’s plans to drop the Ln moniker and recording techniques factored into Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2. On the one hand, the songs sound especially tentative and unnerved, as if, while recording the music, Murray was gazing beyond the CD. On the other hand, Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2’s stripped back production values which present Murray’s soft vocals so vulnerably may contribute to this sense. In any case, the songs drift lightly into the listener’s ears, and gently waft out, all the while sublimely pointing to a “beyond” through ethereal music and lyrics filled with longing. For instance, the CD opens with the breathtaking “Without Your Song”, a gentle song that features a lightly picked guitar and light drones cradling Murray’s vocals: “Does your ocean ever sleep?/Do your stars ever dream?/Close your eyes and think of me/And I’ll be waiting/I’ll be dancing on the waves/Whenever you need to find a place/That feels like home”. The song is achingly beautiful, and as soon as it takes hold over the listener, it blends into the short instrumental “Lamps of Sleep”. This beautiful song then subtly blends into perhaps the most musically poignant song on the disc, the lovely “Albatross”. Amidst a cacophony of floating guitars and effects, Murray’s voice glides. Within the song’s gorgeous folds, sounds abound such as distant percussion, and eerily layered vocals. Changing the mood somewhat, though keeping things delicate and quiet, is the straightforward “It Don’t Matter If You Bleed”. The song, with its intricate acoustic guitar work and gospel-blues infused lyrics, resembles an old spirituals song from the Deep South of a bygone era.
Following this touching song is “Stars Beautiful”, which sounds like a throwback to the slightly spacey post-rock sound that Ln established themselves with on their early EP’s. In that sense, the song is a treat for long-time fans, as they hear the echoes and strains of reverbed guitars (and a nice drum arrangement) that caused them to love the band in the first place. For first time Ln hearers, “Stars Beautiful” is a beautifully elusive night-time song that will cause the listener to ruminate on such lyrics as, “Wrap around me/I don’t want to be alone/Wrap around/Stars beautiful”. The short but powerful “Pull Me Through The Blue” follows, with painful lyrics and a stripped down acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement. The only song on Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2 not to be written by Murray comes next, the twangy, “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still”. Ln plays the song well, with a delicate and thoughtful alt-country arrangement, while leaving the poignant lyrics bare for the listener to absorb.
Following this classy arrangement comes a song like no other in Ln’s catalogue. The melody and lyrical themes, hushed vocals, and even the dreamy guitar and keyboard work largely fit into the Ln approach to music, but “Kisses” features a light low-fi drum machine accompanying the percussion that totally revamps the song (and almost shocks the listener on first listen. The song portrays Murray’s songwriting in a new light, revealing that his songwriting can work on a more conventional level, as a strong melody plays out over the drum machine and ethereal sounds. “If I Could Only Be The Moon” is appropriately a quiet and tender song which features such heart breaking lyrics as: And often I pray/If I could only be the moon/Then you would love me/Like you used to/If only I could light up your eyes/And whisper goodnight/Instead of goodbye”. The insturmental and dreamy “Pale Light, Pale Eyes” gorgeously flows over the listener, and gives way finally to the folky “Ride That Pony Down”. The final song on Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2, and consequently the final chapter in Ln’s legacy, “Ride That Pony Down” is a fitting conclusion, with its lyrics pointing to a hopeful end to the solitude that Murray so freely shares in his music and lyrics.
Maybe Murray wasn’t so much distracted by the impending dissolution of his group. Rather, Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2 finds Murray ruminating on issues of love, loss, denial, pain, and ultimately, hope, through music that effortlessly reflects the weighty issues it points to. Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2 is a stunning take on the transitory nature of love, life, and human emotion. How fitting for Gary Murray, as he transitions his art into new territory while casting one last glance at Ln. Overall, Dirt Floor Hotel Part 2 is an intimate work that will subtly breathe over listeners, mesmerizing them to the soft strains of guitars, hint of vocals, and whispers of grace.