Chris Murphy may not be a musician who is immediately recognizable to music fans despite the fact that he has recorded more than 500 works, 16 solo albums, and 20 collaborative albums. He is a multi-instrumentalist who grew up in New York surrounded by a variety of music. “I heard and was influenced by everything – from Italian mandolin music to bluegrass and folk, to Latin music.”
That broad variety of influences is easily noticeable on the new album Sovereign. It’s hard to guess what’s coming next on this album that ranges from Celtic to soul.
Right from the beginning of the album, you realize the Celtic influence on this album. “Halfway around the World” features a prominent fiddle part that sounds like something you would hear in an Irish pub. Toward the end of the song, you also pick up some banjo and tin whistle that might have you looking for a pint of Guinness. The same could be said for the instrumental title track.
Lots of songs have been written about a relationship that you enjoy even though you know it’s trouble. “Boxed In” is one of those songs. One line captures the theme of the song perfectly. “The girl was trouble from the get-go. I’m gonna regret it, but I can’t say no.” The melody of this one takes on more of a bluegrass feel with the addition of the mandolin. That being said, there is a guitar part that is more honky-tonk than bluegrass.
Murphy keeps you guessing as to what comes next. While the Celtic influence is pretty steady, he also taps into some ragtime sound in “Done with Diane.” This one features a mellow melody and a rhythm that is easy to dance to. It also features clarinet and mandolin. The lyrics are enough to catch your ear as well. One of the reasons the narrator is done with Diane is because she “left me in a bar one night in old Spokane, posted all about it on her Instagram.” That’s as good a reason as any to be done with someone.
“Three Feet Deep” is not an easy song to classify. The melody and the irregular rhythm wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tom Waits album. Meanwhile, there is a saxophone part reminiscent of Morphine and some fiddle that carries the Celtic influence.
Sovereign (Friendly Folk Records) by Chris Murphy is a showcase in creative songwriting. You never know how the next song will sound, but you know it will be pleasant. With a distinctly old-time sound, Murphy gives the listener plenty of opportunities to dance. This album was released on June 30 and is available now, Order your copy here.