As co-founder of Dallas, Texas rockers The Old 97s, Murry Hammond has been the driving bass to the quartet’s punchy compositions over six releases that straddle the line between alt-country and pop. But there is a spiritual side to Hammond, who occasionally performs at the Burbank Christian Church during Wednesday night Vespers. That spirituality – further engaged by the death of both of his parents and a move to California to start a family – is clear on I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way, a collection of train songs and spirituals that brim with earnestness.
The ambient textures used on I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way evoke glimmers of hope through desperation, cutting to the core of spiritual inflection, the fear of evil, and the search for redemption. Over the course of 17 tracks, Hammond seamlessly blends his compositions with classics from The Carter Family, the writing team of Eliza R. Snow/M.E. Abbey/ Charles D. Tillman, as well sacred traditional spirituals. Originals, like the chugging, steam-powered “Lost at Sea,” and the sparse, eloquently delivered “Next Time Take The Train,” unfold like pages from dust-covered songbooks, tucked into long-forgotten pews. Hammond and producer Mark Neill mingle these original songs with the tense spirituality of “You Will Often Meet Obstruction,” and the brooding-yet-victorious “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down.”
Murry Hammond has stepped backed from his career’s work with the Old 97s, immersing himself in history and spiritually. In doing so, he has defined his ability to craft timeless compositions that resonate as powerfully as those that have more than stood the test of time. I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way is a blessing for the heart and the soul.
I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way is out now on Hummingbird Records.