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Chris Murphy






1. Waltz
2. Blues for Bukowski
3. Luminous
4. Dec 12, 1968
5. Night of the hunter
6. Hyacinth
7. The return of Queen Jane
8. Sparks from the wind
9. Farewell my lovely
10. The rustling of flowers
11. The golden horde
12. Bear cubs
13. Gospel music
14. Skinny Ed
15. Piston
16. Richard Widmark
Chris Murphy and his band

Chris Murphy is a violinist but a violinist with a difference. If one says that his music touches folkloric roots you might think of, say, Kathryn Tickell; if one adds that he has affinities with Jazz you might consider Regina Carter, or farther out, Jean Luc Ponty. In fact neither of these musicians is a point of reference. Murphy plays the electric violin as if it were a guitar. In that case, one might wonder why he doesn’t put aside his violin and pick up a real guitar – but that would be to miss the point.

In this disc, unnumbered so pursue the links for more information, he has been joined by such as Tim Rutelli from Califone, Larry Taylor and Steven Hodges from Tom Waits’ band, Nels Cline from Wilco, John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake from X and Victoria Williams. Some you may have heard of, some not.

There’s a bold, folkish Waltz and a Blues-Rock workout on the Bukowski number. If raddled barflies are required this number is possibly too clean limbed to do the trick. Doubtless Murphy would look askance at the thought – or maybe he wouldn’t – but something like Luminous, the title track, has the agreeable lyricism of an Aimee Mann song about it. He can mine the ballad tradition as well – there’s a choice if overlong example (most of these tracks are slightly too long) on Hyacinth. One of the most spectacular examples of Murphy wielding his electrified fiddle like an axe comes in the powerhouse The Return of Queen Jane – a really tuneful and captivating song. His backwoods tastes are audible in Sparks from the Wind, a campfire and collar-turned-up kind of a song. The hymnal start to The Rustling of Flowers is deceptive, because it leads us to folk waters whereas the two tracks that follow slot more conventionally into bluesy ease.

Eclectic and sometimes formulaic though some of this is Murphy’s music is richly felt. It’s an all-instrumental album and his violin leads with its own particular and individual force, even when it doesn’t sound much like a violin. He’s at heart a blues man and balladeer I think – a minstrel with romantic tastes, who bows his fiddle where the woods meet the waters.

Jonathan Woolf


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