Shaun Murphy – Mighty Gates | Album Review

Shaun Murphy – Mighty Gates

Vision Wall Records

13 Tracks/50:06

Most people have some experience with the adage, “Life ain’t fair”. Often invoked as a way of accounting for situations that seemingly defy reality, those three words remind us that sometimes there is no explaining some of the twist and turns along life’s highway. That sentiment certainly applies to Shaun Murphy’s solo career. While other singers with only a shred of her talent wail, warble, and scream their way into the spotlight, Murphy has received little acclaim for a series of recordings featuring her amazing voice. Despite doing backing vocals for Bob Seger over the decades as well as several Eric Clapton tours, and fifteen years as the lead singer for Little Feat, she continually seems to be overlooked and under-appreciated for her solo efforts.

Her latest kicks off with solid shuffle, “I Don’t Need Nobody,” courtesy of Tom DelRossi on drums and John Marcus on bass. The song was written by guitarist Kenne Cramer, who’s tasty licks ride the swells played on the organ played by Kevin McKendree, who also produced the project. Cramer also penned “Blues In The Morning,” a track sure to be a hit with the dancers as McKendree gives his piano keyboard a thorough workout.

Murphy had a hand in composing seven tunes, starting with “Out Of My Own Way,” is a rueful lament that could be Murphy’s theme song, as she knowing relates the value of pushing on through all that life throws at you. The band kicks it into another gear on “Slightly Free,” and Murphy’s voice easily matches the tougher sounds, unleashing several primal cries in response to Tommy Stillwell’s galvanizing guitar work. His efforts are a focal point as the singer maintains a sense of emotional restrain, mourning a broken heart on “I Never Loved You”. On “A Night Like This,” Murphy captivates listeners as she caresses each note, building layers of emotional texture in a performance that amply illustrates the extent of her talent. Another standout is the ballad, “I Never Stopped Loving You,” her voice beautifully rising over McKendree’s delicate piano accompaniment. “That Kind Of Time” finds Murphy making it clear that she no intentions of waiting around, hoping for a lasting relationship. Once again, Stillwell’s playing is first-rate.

It is great to hear someone crank it up on several Frankie Miller tunes. Miller was a brawny Scottish singer and songwriter who had a major impact on Seger, eventually falling victim to a brain hemorrhage that left him unable to perform. “Down The Honky Tonk” features ringing guitar chords and a driving beat with Murphy’s gritty nature on full display. The pace may slow on “Be Good To Yourself,” but the singer’s voice soars over the guitar-driven arrangement with the greatest of ease. Cramer and Stillwell join forces on “Walk In My Shadow,” a crunching rocker from Free, the band Paul Rogers fronted. Murphy once again achieves the perfect balance between tone, articulation, and a muscular vocal presentation. The title track is a Dobie Gray composition with gospel overtones that allows Murphy to lift up an impassioned, eloquent plea for a better world.

Blues, rock, ballads, it doesn’t matter – Shaun Murphy takes each song and gives it a personal touch, her voice never failing to touch some part of your musical soul. It is time for listeners to start paying attention to this outstanding vocalist.

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