Chris Murphy – Water Under the Bridge | Album Review

Chris Murphy – Water Under the Bridge

Teahouse Records

CD: 14 Songs, 58:47 Minutes

Styles: Original Jazz, Blues, and Swing Violin Music, Instrumentals, All Original Songs

“I, more than anything, strive to have my music be a short little film, a movie. I probably could be defined as a frustrated film auteur. My music is like a live film score, you know? I’m inviting you on a journey into my world, filled with questionable characters and black-market deals, alleyways, men in trench coats and women in corsets and the police. I’m Chris Murphy. I play the violin. I write songs about love, loss, redemption, hope, fear…” What need more be said about this magnificently-multitalented muso from California and his new release, Water Under the Bridge? This: If you like the Nouveaux Honkies, jazz-influenced blues aficionados, this CD will be right up your wet and moonlit back alley. It features fourteen original songs so heavy and redolent with atmosphere that they’ll conjure mental images from their very first notes. Chris’ blues is nightclub, cocktail-party, wedding-reception blues. It’s as far from the barroom variety as the east is from the west. Nevertheless, it’ll keep listeners fully engaged from start to finish. A minor quibble is with the auto-tuned nature of the vocals – my operative word being “minor.” Otherwise, it’s perfect for a long road trip or quiet evening at home with one’s favorite red wine.

Murphy boasts more than ten albums to his credit, and has also made cameo appearances on records by Har Mar Superstar and the Dandy Warhols, among others. Murphy’s recordings include the likes of Steve Hodges and Larry Taylor from Tom Waits’ band, Nels Cline, Mike Watt, DJ Bonebrake and John Doe, Herb Pedersen, Tim O’Brien, Joachim Cooder, and Trevor Hutchinson. He’s been featured on TV programs The Ellen DeGeneres Show and ‘Til Death.

On this CD, he also boasts a Greek-sized chorus of co-performers: Nate Lapointe on guitar; Tom Moose on mandolin, guitar and banjo; DJ Bonebrake on drums; Ted Russell Kamp on bass; Olivia Brownlee on backing vocals; Jamieson Trotter on piano; Danny Frankel on drums and percussion; Tim Emmons on bass; Michael Abrahams on guitar; Benedict Brydern on violin; Bill Markus on bass; Marty Rifkin on dobro; and Adam Gust on drums. As for Murphy himself, he plays violin, mandolin, guitar, and percussion while doing lead vocal duty.

The following three songs are the picks of the litter, though they’re all of purebred quality.

Track 02: “Joan Crawford Dances the Charleston” – Interesting title; even more interesting instrumental. Yours truly is too young to remember Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, but she’s heard rumors about one of cinema’s most beguiling witches. This may sound like a jaunty, lighthearted little tune, but there’s an undercurrent of melancholy angst running through it. It’s suave and stylish, and if you let your mind wander, it might call 1930’s gangster films up.

Track 05: “I Swear I’m Gonna Learn This Time” – Chris Murphy and Olivia Brownlee perform this charming duet about trying (and failing) to discern a lesson from one’s mistakes. “I swear I’m going to learn this time,” they sing. “It’s hard when you’re heart’s beating in rhyme…I should know better after all I’ve been through, but one caress and I fall for you.” Love is irresistible, even if it’s a teasing temptation instead of the real deal.

Track 10: “Dog Ear Blues” – Guitar fans rejoice: track ten’s your number. It’s got an edge as hard as steel and as sharp as a CASE® pocketknife. Adam Gust provides gutsy drums on this foot-stomping extravaganza, and Marty Rifkin is the guest of honor on delicious dobro.

Blues fans, don’t dismiss Chris Murphy’s marvelous music as so much Water Under the Bridge!

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