The closing number on the second Burning Mansions album Lucid, is a blistering midtempo psych-blues that begins by bemoaning the current state of our union:
What have we become Are we silent social networks Forgetting how to dream Are we a black lion army Killing without shame.
The lyrics to the song "Sparks" are sung over a bed of searing electric guitar, with rock-bottom bass and drums, and Jonathan Murphy's high-tenor vocals flying overhead like a bird shot through the heart and falling from the clouds.
Those with fond memories (and deep musical appreciation) of the sort of cosmic electric blues delivered by guitar god Robin Trower in the '70s, or the classic guitar buzz and thunder of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, will find fiery kindred spirits in Burning Mansions. As a singer, Murphy conjures up Steve Marriott, Robert Plant and even Paul Rodgers.
Murphy is also the trio's 27-year-old guitarist. He writes most of the material, with hands-on assist from bassist Jason Gecik and drummer Chris Heath.
"We all like Trower, Hendrix, Zeppelin, all the classics," Murphy says. "There's a lot of hidden influences in our music that only if you know our tastes can you listen for them."
Adds Gecik: "I think we can thank our fathers for that. I was raised on music that was already 15 years old when I was a kid. My dad was listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, all that really good stuff that you don't hear much of nowadays."
These three guys from Guyton are setting a high new bar for classic rock sounds in Savannah. And Burning Mansions is not the only band to spotlight the multi-talented Murphy: Check out Jon Lee & the Canebrakes, Jon Lee's Apparitions and the Time Walkers.
Each group is a little different.
"There's some of the Trower stuff in the Canebrakes too, but we try to make it a little more radio-friendly, I guess you'd say," Murphy explains. "I write some songs that are retro-pop, Amy Winehouse sort of stuff, and we try to do that with the Canebrakes.
"With this band, if I write a song like that, the first thing we do is try to say 'How can we make it weird?" How can we make it us?'"
The Canebrakes — which came first — is slightly more commercial, by design, than Burning Mansions. "There were songs that were kind of 'out there,' stuff I thought the Canebrakes might not want to do," Murphy says. "I knew Chris, and Jason, liked bands like Mars Volta and stuff like that. It just went from there. We basically took it a song at a time, as they were written, completed 'em, and just kept building and building."
The band debuted nearly three years ago with a CD called Labor Day — it was one of the local highlights of 2010 — and has been ensconced in a small Effingham studio for the past six months, recording Lucid.
Heath, who also drums for the Apparitions and Chicken Fight, kept things basic. "I recorded the drums and I didn't really have much else to do with it," he says. "I did that on purpose, so the CD would be new when it came out.
"With Labor Day, we were all there and we heard it and heard it and heard it. This time around, I wanted to be outside looking in. So I laid down the drum tracks and these two guys did the rest. All the bass, vocals and guitar leads, all the auxiliary, I didn't hear any of it."
Murphy and Gecik added guitar layers and, where appropriate, atmospheric synthesizer. "A lot of times," Gecik explains, "it's just an accident. 'Let's turn this on and see what happens.' We'll know right away, if somebody gives us a weird look or something. The three of us are all so passive, and that's why we get along so well. As long as it sounds good, and everybody's happy, we don't nitpick."
Besides playing bass in Burning Mansions, Gecik sometimes drums with Bottles & Cans, and sits in on bass with Jon Lee's Apparitions when he has time (not often; he recently became a father).
For Heath, Burning Mansions is the ultimate. "Everywhere we play," he says, "everybody's like 'Savannah's too small. Y'all need to be out playing for a bunch of people.'
"I agree it's not a commercial band, but it's good music. It's better than any band I've ever been in."
Lucid is available at burningmansions.bandcamp.com.
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