$5 Awesome: Murry Attaway's In Thrall

Rocks Off has picked up some CDs over the years at prices so low we think that it would've been less insulting to the artists if we had stolen them. Some of these have become our favorite albums, and in this column we'll tell you what they are and why!

Back in the days when Rocks Off's main hobbies were high heels and powerbombs, we lived way down in Clear Lake far from Sound Exchange, Cactus and other fine music retailers. So we and the Wife With One F - who was the Girlfriend With One F at the time - would amuse ourselves by getting plastered in the aisles of Wal-Mart at 2 a.m.

On one of these trips, we headed over to the music section after an invigorating pillowfight, and it was at the bottom of a giant $1 bin that we found one of our Top 10 albums, Murray Attaway's In Thrall.

Attaway was the singer and rhythm guitarist for the Athens, Ga., indie group Guadalcanal Diary. They hung out with R.E.M and the B-52s and others in the scene, but they never quite reached high enough to cement their place in music history. The band called it quits in 1989, and Attaway attempted a solo career with this album in 1993.

At its heart, what you have is some very roots-inspired alternative music. The album usually alternates between upbeat, almost rockabilly pop tracks and very powerful pagan pieces that all have a taste of the October country in them. To this day, Rocks Off has never figured out if the album is a pro-religion or anti-religion opus. References to angels and saints all have a slightly heathen tint to them, as if old gods were wearing Jesus masks. Or vice versa.

The fall wind howls through the entire album, whether the music is festive of somber. It just has the kind of atmosphere to it that modern production works like a mad bastard to eliminate, airy but oppressive at the same time. To listen to In Thrall is to take part in a ritual whose meaning you do not understand, but whose primal power cannot be denied.

It's oblique, and it's cool and frankly, it's the best $1 (plus tax) we ever spent in our lives.

Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.

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