Shaun Murphy – Loretta | Album Review

shaunmurphycdShaun Murphy – Loretta

Vision Wall Records

12 tracks; 47:10 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Blues Rock; Rock and Roll; Electric Guitar Blues

Some things are unexplainable: self-destructive habits, poor people not voting, and Shaun Murphy not appearing at any of the Blues festivals listed in the 2014 “Blues Festival Guide.”

How have festival talent buyers missed this three time Grammy nominee and 2013’s only double winner at the Blues Blast Music Awards (Best Female Blues Artist of the Year and Best Contemporary Blues Album “Ask For the Moon”)? How have Blues cruise operators and festival buyers not noticed her tours and album credits with Eric Clapton (“Behind the Sun”), Bob Seger (since 1973, including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2010), Bruce Hornsby, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey and The Moody Blues – to name a few?

Did the festival talent search committees miss her at the first “Live Aid Concert” in 1985? Were they unaware of her appearing in both of the Broadway productions of “Hair” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – On The Road”? Did festival talent chairmen sleep through her duo album with Meatloaf for Rare Earth/Motown Records (“Stoney and Meatloaf”), when a teenage Murphy arrived in Detroit MI and was known as “Stoney”? Did they not hear and see her lead singing for the legendary band Little Feat from 1993 through 2009; did they miss her appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight show and Conan O’Brien? Will they, now, notice Shaun’s Jimi Award for “2014 Best Female Vocalist” from Blues 411?

Currently on tour, again, with Bob Seger, doing 33 dates across late 2014 and early 2015, Shaun Murphy has quietly (?) carved out a “new” solo career since 2009 as Blues chanteuse and leader of the Shaun Murphy Band. Deciding to return to her Blues roots, Shaun released the album Livin’ The Blues in September 2009. A second album, The Trouble With Lovin’, followed in 2010. Late in 2011, Murphy released a DVD and live CD both titled Shaun Murphy Live at Callahan’s. Her album Ask for the Moon, released in 2012, was nominated for three Grammy Awards and won a Blues Blast Music Award. 2013 brought the CD “Cry of Love,” and, now, her sixth CD, Loretta, is now released.

Murphy’s magnificent vocals are showcased on each selection (there are no instrumentals). As one might surmise, Murphy possesses a vocal instrument with broad range, clear diction (even I can understand the lyrics), and pleasing pitch and timbre. Her superb deliveries exhibit expert meter and are full of vibrant passion. Of the 12 songs, 7 were penned or co-written by Shaun.

Right off the Launchpad, Murphy announces that this CD is a little more het up than previous works. The Rocking-the-Blues-like-a-barreling-freight-train arrangement in the opening original song “Don’t Lie to Me” is powered by stellar studio musicians. Throughout, here are the seasoned cats that throw down deftly: Jack Pearson – slide and lead guitars, Rob McNelley – lead guitar, Jimi Fiano – lead guitar, Kenneth Michael Cramer – guitar, Randy Coleman – bass, George Lilly – drums, Mark T. Jordan – keyboards, Larry Van Loon – keyboards, and Matt Workman – background vocals along with Randy Coleman and Shaun herself. The CD was produced by Murphy’s agent T.C. Davis and Randy Coleman.

By track 3, “Kiss My Like Whiskey,” Murphy slows it down to mid-tempo to soulfully plead beside Allman Brothers alum Jack Pearson’s plaintive yet insistent slide guitar. The protagonist is begging for passion, “Kiss my like whiskey; leave your taste on my tongue.”

In the rollicking up-tempo title track, Murphy takes the roll of scold. Her acquaintance “Loretta” is about to give her husband a “heart attack” with all her “sneaking around.” Sings the protagonist, “I’ve been down that road; I’ve walked in them shoes. Oh, Loretta, you need to slow down, or you’ll be singing those dead man Blues!” Again, Pearson paces the proceedings powerfully with his slithery slide guitar.

“Strange Life” is a slower number featuring welling organ by Larry Van Loon and harmonic guitar from Jimi Fiano. For some Rock and Roll fretboard fireworks courtesy of Rob McNelley, try Shaun’s version of the standard “Big Train Stops at Memphis.” A nice full-band treatment rides atop Van Loon’s organ in “Careful They Say,” a song penned by Laura Creamer, Murphy’s long time co-vocalist in Bob Seger’s band. John and Sally Tiven helped write a ballad of lament in “24 Hours from Memphis.” Paced by Randy Coleman’s pulsing bass guitar lines, the CD concludes with Murphy powerfully pouring herself into Bettye Crutcher’s “How Strong Is a Woman.”

Perhaps the “unexplainable” mentioned in the opening paragraph can partially be blamed on fans. It is up to fans to request her at festivals, theaters and clubs. Further, call radio stations and request Shaun. Fans just don’t know how much power they collectively have in these areas. Someone needs to wake up the talent buyers to what they are missing in Shaun Murphy.

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