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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Chris Murphy - Water Under the Bridge (2017)

Written by Daniel Boyer, posted by blog admin

The Cajun cooked instrumentals and blues trappings of California-based Chris Murphy and the Blind Blake Blues Band come storming to life on their debut full-length Water Under the Bridge.  At the heart of the hurricane stands Murphy; violinist, fiddler, songwriter and bandleader.  The man practically eats, sleeps and breathes a style/class that you just don’t find with modern music.  There’s nothing retro about the 14 songs on offer here, on the contrary this is a grooving record with an authentically old soul on which you’ll hear bluegrass, blues, jazz, rock, folk, country, r & b and soul.  Each of these musical ideals are distinctly felt and it’s all wrapped up with a big band mindset that ruled the 30s to the early 60s, especially. 

Not only does Murphy play the role of multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist but he’s also the sole composer of every tune contained on Water under the Bridge.  Additionally, alongside co-producer/mixer Joshua Cutsinger, Chris also grabs another production credit (he’s collaborated and produced with everyone from Steve Hodges and Larry Taylor of Tom Waits’ Band to punk legends Mike Watt and John Doe of punk legends The Minutemen and X, respectively.  Obviously, Murphy recognizes the talent and merit in many different types of music and he’s not afraid to include this wide breadth in his very own recordings. 

Each tune on Water Under the Bridge has a unique tasting flavor and literally walls upon walls of down-home instrumentation with the strings remaining a focal point.  In many ways this release brings the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” to energetic rural music that is literally a guidebook of every classic American music genre known to man.  Raucous ragtime jazz piano, countrified acoustics, a rockabilly rhythm set-up, fireball fiddle and swinging violins color tracks like opener “Moveable Feast,” the deliberately ethnic-kissed neoclassical guitars of “My Spanish Lover,” 1940s jazz club swagger of “Dog Ear Blues” and the title track all feel quite congruent with Murphy’s vision of these disparate styles of music.  This is just one turns Water Under the Bridge takes though.    

Then you’ve got the more midpaced, from the gut blues numbers that allow for some hard-edged yet clean riffing, a choice featured performance from the upright bass, cool collected tempos and Chris’ stellar work on the violins, fiddles and acoustics.  The stellar “Joan Crawford Dances the Charleston,” the smoldering downbeat of “Riverboat Blues,” the crunchy and rowdy prowler “Tomcat Blues” which illustrates some serious Hank Williams Sr. chops from the sizzling rockabilly/country musical split right down to the ornery lyrics and the hardliner grooves of “Tarbox Blues” and “Middleweight Champion” are all choice cuts utilizing the aforementioned rockabilly blues handbook.  You also get some Bill Monroe minded, blue-collar bluegrass that positively goes for broke during the high-speed chase of “Table for Two,” “The Lemon Rag” as well as the above-named title track’s hybridization of several styles (bluegrass being a major theme) and “Benzedrine Shuffle’s” sloth-ier realization of the sound.  The album caps off with a hypnotic soundtrack piece of barebones beat-keeping (a floor tom or someone stomping) and sunburnt violin called “Cheer up Mickey” that would be at home in a Clint Eastwood western’s film score.   

Chris Murphy and his merry men can do it all in terms of chops, ability and performance.  They make this stuff look easy on Water Under the Bridge and each track is one that you’re going to want to revisit over and over again to continue to catch of all the little nuances the band throw into their playing, production and arranging.  These cats have a mastery of old school jamming capabilities and they make every inch of every style their own on Water Under the Bridge.   

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