Alt-country group Drunken Prayer plays it like they see it
Morgan Christopher Geer thinks of himself a bit like a musical journalist, who spends his time “seeing things the way they are.”
And when the singer/songwriter rolls into town behind his constantly rotating cast of tell-it-like-it-is indie-folk players—which he calls Drunken Prayer, no matter who’s thumping or fiddling away behind him—he’ll likely be keeping his “antenna up.”
Geer says he is constantly on the lookout for a tale that begs to be told. Perhaps he’ll find one at The Crepe Place on Aug. 15.
He looks to real life situations to supply him with the inspiration for his hard-luck, hard-drinking country tunes, because that’s the path of least resistance.
“If I try to write about one thing, I can’t do it,” explains Geer, who has been working under the Drunken Prayer moniker since 2006, when a conversation with the legendary Tom Waits convinced the budding musician to find his own voice.
Up until that point, Geer confesses, he had been basically aping his influences. “That conversation came around at the right time,” he says. “It gave me some wind in my sails.”
One topic, which he and Waits discussed, was the peculiar beauty of “bad news delivered in a pretty package.” The concept is an apt description for the opening track on Drunken Prayer’s second full-length album, Into the Missionfield. “Brazil” is a slow, twangy plea of a song, which imagines, in major keys, an impossibly idyllic reunion in some carefree Amazonian locale. Throughout the tune, Geer sings a faltering, weakly upbeat melody that struggles to stay bright under the realization—all too clear—that it is simply a dream.
“If I lived in Brazil, would you come and visit me?” the protagonist asks an unidentified former lover, listing all of the ifs before coming to the conclusion, which he had clearly reached before he even began strumming. “No” is the obvious answer. Still, before giving up entirely, Geer’s narrator redoubles his efforts, although he knows the answer isn’t going to change.
And when he is turned down again, he relents, “You ain’t outta line”—an acknowledgement from our sad-sack hero that the entire affair of asking was doomed from the start and only served to twist the knife in his wounded heart.
It may not make for the most dramatic of story arcs, but this is the type of yarn Geer enjoys spinning. He says he really can’t stand songs that are “navel gazing” or autobiographical. “I like to be able to identify with a song.”
It would seem that the voice Geer found after meeting Waits was a rather straightforward one—unvarnished, both literally and figuratively. He doesn’t seem too concerned to be delivering his stories through untrained vocal chords, which can warble, yelp and scrape along, as he paints pictures of the things he sees around him, as they come and without embellishment.
“I pay attention to people’s conversations, road signs, church signs and I kind of vamp off of that,” Geer says. In this way, the songs of Drunken Prayer certainly take on a journalistic quality. And, like any honest reporter, he makes a point of examining both sides of any story before filing his copy. “I love gospel music and I love devil music,” he says, “and I think they can hold hands.”
Drunken Prayer plays at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. For tickets and more info, call 429-6994.
Photo by Julia Oliver