“Irish Fiddle Music” is stamped on the CD cover of Chris Murphy’s latest release, The Tinker’s Dream. However, that phrase may not aptly describe what awaits the listener who dares open the package to hear what it actually contains. The sounds are definitely steeped in traditional Irish sounds and instrumentation featuring fiddle, pennywhistle, mandolin, bodhran and bouzouki along with acoustic guitar, bass, piano and drums. However, the result is something more worldly. The songs leap and bound along painting lush landscapes with bright waves of sound, the sequencing is masterful as the journey is mapped through the sounds and feelings conveyed through the music.
Released: January 27, 2017 Produced by: Chris Murphy
Union of the Seven Brothers
The Tinker’s Dream
The Artful Dodger
The Thistlewood Bridge
The Hayloft Waltz
Lead Vocals, Violin, Mandolin, Guitar Nate Laponte
Guitar, Vocals Tom Moose
Mandolin, Guitar Zac Leger
Bouzouki, Guitar, Flute, Penny Whistle Trevor Hutchinson
Bass Andy Reilly
Drums, Percussion, Bodhran
The album opens with three instrumentals, “Connemara Ponies”, “Union of the Seven Brothers” and the tile track, “The Tinker’s Dream”.
In “Connemara Ponies”, one can imagine the traditional horses of Ireland galloping through emerald green meadows as the fiddle and mandolin dance along. “Union of the Seven Brothers” has a bit of a darker tone though it still feels as though there is hope and sunshine peering through a misty horizon, while “The Tinker’s Dream” is a joyful dance of sunshine and happy thoughts with the fiddle dancing over the
steady percussion and accented flute.
The remaining highlights of the album include one of three songs with lyrics, “Small Wonder” which showcases Murphy’s soothing vocal style, “The Tower” which is a simple jig featuring fiddle and acoustic guitar and a simple percussive beat which create a stunningly dramatic portrait, and “Cape Horn”, one of several songs about travel and adventure at sea.
Overall, The Tinker’s Dream only contains three songs with words, but that does not keep it from speaking volumes. The instrumentation, arrangements and songwriting capture and convey moments exquisitely. This album also marks the midway point of Murphy’s planned six releases over a short time span and so far his three albums have been diverse and entertaining.
Pennsylvania native Jeremiah Tall is a roots musician who draws musical inspiration from the mountains and great outdoors while his lyrics range from the tall tales of his youth to the realities of everyday life. On his latest full length album, Where the Lore Began, Tall delivers eleven tracks of strong but sparsely-arranged tunes that are melodic and potent and just diverse enough to make for an interesting listen from beginning to end.
Tall performs a one-man show where his vocals are accompanied by a variety of instruments including acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin. He also adds an occasional harmonica lead and keeps a steady stomp with a custom kick drum converted from a hand painted suitcase. This 2015 album follows his 2014 EP Waking, which was produced by Bill Moriarty. For Where the Lore Began, Moriarity co-produced with Tim Bostwick as well as Tall, who did some independent recordings.
“Almost Heaven” kicks off as a short, banjo-fused stomp with the repeated chorus being the entirety of the lyrics in this minute-long song. “A Heart at War” follows as a pop-oriented blue grass tune with some strategic stops for good effect and a fine harmonica solo. “Hard Working Man” finds Tall nearly solo on mandolin with the slightest rhythmic arrangement and great vocals throughout, while “I Got a Name” is a banjo led folk jam with a middle section a cool clapping/percussion. “Where The Dandelions Roam” is a slightly melancholy ode to a love of nature not shared by a significant other and features good acoustic guitar action, where “Moonlight” is the first song with a rich arrangement, including a Farfisa organ by Ben Mazz as well as a richer bass and vocal effects, which works to give this short track a haunting feel.
Another pleasant but haunting acoustic folk, “Never Surrender” is decorated with some strings for a cool vibe as the lyrics tell of armed resistance and the harmonica lead is an overall highlight on the album. “Time” is a much brighter song than the preceding cuts, almost a celebratory love song all performed above a scratched out banjo riff, sparse but effective bass and some slight backing vocals in the chorus. “Two Timing Tommy” is a working-class acoustic guitar folk song about a bank robbing anti-hero. The inclusion of Erica Erenyi on cello and Jamie Shadowlight on violin really work here to make this a dark and direct tune. “Working For” is a moody track about a worn out laborer and this features another rich arrangement with thumping rhythms and some very potent vocal dynamics. The album concludes with “Salvation”, which completes the loop as a banjo track with lyrics that are dramatic and a vocal delivered with much desperation.
Since the release of Where the Lore Began in October 2015, Jeremiah Tall has continued to play heavily in the Northeast and in 2016 began to tour across the USA as a supporting act.
Combining an ecosystem of rich musical influences with a passion to create and perform, Chris Murphy is in the process of unleashing a tidal force of original, organic and entertaining music through his new label Teahouse Records. Starting early in 2016 with the accessible pop/rock album Surface to Air and continuing with the late summer release of the down-home flavored Red Mountain Blues, Murphy and company are currently a third of the way through their planned six album musical campaign. Each of these albums were were written and recorded by Murphy in the recent years and each has its own niche in a vast array of styles and all are centered around Murphy’s virtuoso violin fiddling.
This artist has been at it for about a quarter century as a performer, recording artist and musical instructor. Throughout this time span, Murphy has built an impressive portfolio of solo and collaborative works along with cameo appearances on records by established artists. Originally from New York City, he drew upon the disparate and eclectic sounds of his Irish/Italian neighborhood, from Italian-mandolin music to bluegrass and folk to Latin music to rock and roll. Later he learned Eastern and other influences as well as composition at Simon’s Rock of Bard College and the New England Conservatory of Music. Along the way, Murphy learned to play guitar, mandolin, percussion and some Eastern instruments before focusing his mastery on the violin.
Now based in Los Angeles, Murphy earns his living by performing, working on music for film, and as the “Dean of Musical Zen” at The Black Tree School, where he teaches guitar, mandolin and violin.
Surface to Airby Chris Murphy
Released: February 1, 2016 Produced by: Chris Murphy and Joshua Cutsinger
Sailing the World Alone
That Just Might Do the Trick
Surface to Air
The Blacksmith’s Fancy
Vernon Tool & Die
Last of the Twickhbam Blackbirds
The Oscar Wilde Waltz
Elmira Prison Camp
Wish You Well
Nothing Good Happens
Music for a Feast
The Hunter & the Fox
Lead Vocals, Violin, Mandolin, Guitar Joshua “Cartiar” Cutsinger
Guitar, Theramin, Percussion, Vocals Nate Laponte
Guitar, Vocals Tom Moose
Mandolin, Guitar Ted Russell Kamp
Bass Michael Jerome Moore
The accessible sounds of Surface to Air are spread throughout this diverse album, which primarily hits on themes of heartbreak, desperation and forgotten dreams lyrically. “Sailing the World Alone” kicks off the album with a rich, folk-rock arrangement and seems to hearken back to Murphy’s 2014 album, Boat Songs. Next comes the upbeat country/pop jam “That Just Might Do the Trick” with some philosophical lyrics such as;
a man only has but one destiny, it’s got a mind of its own, best to let it be…”
The title track “Surface to Air” is the first place where Murphy’s violin takes front and center stage. Overall this track has a nice, subtle musical arrangement featuring rounded bass notes and a mix of dry drums and percussion by Brian McLeod and Andy Reilly. “The Blacksmith’s Fancy” is the first of several instrumentals on this album with an animated fiddle over steady rhythm and beats, while “Dead Weight” is almost new wave in style and features an electric guitar lead and some solo drum beats later on by Adam Gust.
The middle part of Surface to Air features the most quality music on the album. “Vernon Tool & Die” has a jazzy underlying feel with strong acoustic strumming and lead, bluesy/jazz rhythms and piano by Dave Schulz in an overall very interesting and unique track. “Last of the Twickham Blackbirds” features a bright, upbeat acoustic which sets the bedding for a violin lead-in to the pop-oriented verses, similar in vibe to The Wallflowers, with organ textures and steady rhythms throughout. The aptly titled “The Oscar Wilde Waltz” is the best overall violin showcase on this album as Murphy’s exquisite playing is backed by strummed acoustic and subtle bass notes. “Elmira Prison Camp” is a pleasant Americana/rock song with fine vocal melodies and backing harmonies, telling the story of a Confederate prisoner of war in a Northern camp. “Wish You Well” is a somber breakup song with rapid strumming, shuffling drum beats and good bass by Hal Cragin.
Surface to Air winds down with a trio of instrumentals; the excellent funk of “Bugulusa Blues”, the extended lead sections of “Music for a Feast” and the solemn mandolin-led “The Hunter &’ the Fox”. In between these is the slide-acoustic fused “Nothing Good Happens” with an outlaw country flavor.
Red Mountain Bluesby Chris Murphy
Released: August 19, 2016 Produced by: Chris Murphy and Joshua Cutsinger
Red Mountain Blues
Dig for One Day More
Meet Me Tonight
The Lord Will Provide
Lead Vocals, Violin Nate Laponte
Guitar, Vocals Tom Moose
Mandolin, Guitar Ted Russell Kamp
Bass DJ Bonebrake
Unlike the previous album, which touches on many sub-genres, Red Mountain Blues is more focused in on the folk/country/bluegrass strain and also acts as more of a direct showcase for Murphy and his sidekick musicians called “The Devil’s Box”. This all begins with the opening title instrumental, which features several turns of lead instruments through this moderately paced jam before Murphy’s fiddle takes center stage.
There is excellent sound quality throughout, each and every song is upbeat and entertaining
This title track is just the first of many instrumentals on Red Mountain Blues, including the pleasant and hypnotic “High Country”, the rapid string-led “Cast Iron”, the moderate and romantic piano and violin of “Walt Whitman”, the banjo and fiddle stomp of “Buckwheat Pancakes” and “The Lord Will Provide”, the acoustic outro to the album, which starts mellow and somber but picks up halfway through.
As for the tracks with lead vocals, there are plenty of pleasant tunes here. “Dirt Time” is slightly country and slightly Celtic folk with Murphy’s fiddle licks between the verses and some harmonized vocals by Herb Pedersen in the choruses. “Black Roller” leans more towards bluegrass with some Gospel elements lyrically, while “Kitchen Girl” is the most country-influenced thus far with a down home feel and good hook and it features mandolin player Tim O’Brien on lead vocals. “Dry County” has some staccato rudiments before launching into a banjo-fueled arrangement, while the darker and more dramatic “Dig for One Day More” is a diddy about the hardships of coal miners. “Meet Me Tonight” works as a traditional country/pop track before the album winds down with a few sparsely arranged tracks, the old west vibe of “Johnson County” and Murphy’s solo fiddle and vocals on “Chickasaw Freedom”.
Beyond his vocation as a working musician, Murphy is also a sort of musical philosopher who dismisses reports of the music industry’s demise because music itself is timeless, stating;
“In another era I would have played square dances, and loved it. I would have been a court musician in Versailles in the 17th Century, or a violinist in a circus orchestra…”
Murphy will continue touring and recording for the foreseeable future as well as breaking his music into the European market. The third album release of 2016, called The Tinkers Dream is set to drop on November 11th.