If the Lord had not been on our side, the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away (Psalm 124:1-4). Every year the snow would melt in the Welsh mountains near James Murray‘s home; the rain would fall, the twin rivers would flood. As Murray writes, “They swept over pastures and hedgerows, tore at the fabric of the land.” These memories lie at the heart of Floods, an album that delves beneath the surface to address “personal floods, mental waters” as well.
When faced with such forces of nature, one can drown, float to safety or be carried on the current to an unforeseen destination. Happily, Murray’s album seems less one of drowning than of waving. When the sound of water emerges on “Greenlands”, it does so in benign fashion, accompanied by xylophone tones and melodic chimes. Even the sub-bass seems more an anchor than a passing leviathan. Floods is the sound of gratitude, the family on the bank watching the waters recede, the little boy with a paper sailboat and a stick, merrily chasing the construction as it darts and retreats.
The rains come; the rains go. The rivers return to their designated boundaries. The dark clouds intrude, impairing judgment; but then they pass, and clarity reemerges. Once one is used to the cycle, one can begin to bear the pain, knowing that it is but a temporary visitor, one who enters the mind without wiping his boots. When day comes, the mud dries, and can be swept away with a determined broom.
The title track is the most memorable piece, due to the contrast between a calm, stable acoustic guitar and an emotional melody that contains the yearning timbre – although not the form – of a fireside harmonica. As the guitar continues on an even pace, the processed passage, the lonely loon, swoops and dips as if looking for a place to rest, never seeming to recognize that it is already there.
What is this force that extends a hand, that lifts us from the flood of mortal ills, that sets us high upon a rock? To some, it is a higher power; to others, a memory, an ideal, a hope. For Murray, it may be music. The very act of setting pen to score may have been one of defiance: I am not the one who drowns. This generosity is extended to all who listen; Floods may begin in water, but it ends on the safety of land. (Richard Allen)