Chris Murphy is a man that has made his living playing music on a number of instruments – violin, guitar and mandolin to name a few – and in a variety of forms including teaching music, composing movie soundtracks, as a gun for hire doing session work through to this current bluegrass/hoe-down (not of the Gangsta rap variety!) project.
The album starts with mid-paced instrumental piece ‘Red Mountain Blues’ and sets the tone for the most of the rest of the album. It’s pleasant enough without dragging you from your seat; it almost sounds like a soundtrack/theme tune, which is probably a throwback to his earlier work, but I am sure in a live environment complete with a touch of moonshine, it would take on a whole new life form!
The song ‘Dirt Time’ follows and we get the first airing of Chris Murphy’s vocals on this album. Whilst wholly competent I was hoping for some gnarly, whiskey ravaged, black toothed, spit and saw dust vocal delivery to compliment the musical style so I feel like the songs with vocals are missing a trick.
‘High Country’ is another agreeable instrumental centring on a nice hook and each of the instruments get a bit of a chance to shine. ‘Black Roller’ follows and this song is of a similar pace to the previous tracks so by this stage you start to hope that the band will begin to mix it up a bit. The next track ‘Kitchen Girl’ is a song featuring the vocals of Tim O’Brien which make a pleasant change.
‘Cast Iron’ is another instrumental but thankfully ups the pace a little to give the album a bit of a mid-set boost! ‘Dry County’ continues the up-tempo feel although the chorus reminds me of ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ on speed.
‘Walt Whitman’ slows things down and has a lovely flow and again each of the instruments gets a chance to shine a little. ‘Dig For One Day More’ and ‘Buckwheat Pancakes’ lift the pace again before we have the track ‘Meet Me Tonight’ which sounds like a country hillbilly pop song – if there is such a thing.
The last three tracks on the album are probably amongst my favourites. The simplicity of the arrangement of ‘Johnson County’ with piano and fiddle lends itself to a lovely mournful tune. ‘Chickasaw Freedman’ is a basic fiddle and foot stomping vocal with a catchy chorus – you probably need a few glasses of Jim Beam to fully appreciate it but I don’t mind making that sacrifice in the name of art.
Final track ‘The Lord Will Provide’ starts with a carefully measured slow paced intro with just guitar and fiddle, before they both kick in together to create a jaunty tune to close the album off.
All in all, this is not a half bad album; the stand out tracks are the ones that deviate from the mid-paced tracks and if we had just had a bit more ballsy Wild West gruffness in the vocal it would have scored even higher.
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