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Shaun Murphy - Ask for the Moon

Vision Wall Records

15 tracks/62:19

In her forty year career, Shaun Murphy has had a number of high profile gigs including appearing in several Broadway productions as well as providing backing vocals for Bob Seeger and Eric Clapton before she joined Little Feat as a featured vocalist. Once she made the decision in 2008 to start a solo career, she has put out two critically lauded studio recordings and a live disc that provided a healthy dose of her potent live show.

Her latest offers a feast of great songs, stirring vocals and sympathetic instrumental backing. Right from the start Murphy's amazing voice grabs your attention and doesn't let go for over an hour. “Just Enough” is filled with her anguished cries as she attempts to free herself from the throes of a torrid love affair. Shawn Starski's echoes her pain with a stinging guitar solo. On the original “Heartless Man”, she is joined by Burton Garr Jr. for a vocal duet that paints a vivid portrait of a mistreated woman. Another tune Murphy wrote with Julie Black, “Why You Hurt Me So Bad”, continues focusing on emotional pain, tempered by Johnny Neel laying down lush accompaniment on the organ. Her sweltering rendition of “It's My Own Tears” makes that slow blues tune another stunning highlight.

Murphy switches gears and delivers plenty of humor on 'Ugly Man Blues”, her nimble voice taking great pleasure in describing the value of a man who looks like a “..mangy dog”. The title cut has a funkier groove with Murphy preaching about about hope while utilizing the entire spectrum of her remarkable vocal range. She sings with perfect control on “Forget About Me” and yet her voice crackles with intensity as she delivers a sen-off to an unfaithful lover. Tim Gonzalez provides some nice harmonica fills. Once the band is fully engaged on Burton Garr's “Mighty Long Road”, the track rocks hard with Boyd LeFan on bass and Daryl Burgess on drums laying down a solid backbeat before Jim Horn pushes things into overdrive with a hardy sax solo. The closing cut, “Get Away”, is a tough rocker with Starski playing a insistent guitar line while Murphy growls and purrs through a swaggering performance.

Five songs were written by Bekka Bramlett, the daughter of Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett and an amazing singer herself. Make sure you listen carefully to “Let's Talk About Love” and marvel how her voice intertwines with Murphy's to create a jubilant celebration that ends with a gospel flourish. “Go Home” is a relentless put-down as Murphy makes her disdain for cheating married man quite clear. The soulful ballad “Big Wheels” benefits from robust backing vocals on the chorus, courtesy of Murphy, Bramlett and Vickie Carrico. “What's In It For Me” features Kenny Greeenberg on guitar and more of Horn's hard-blowing sax behind Murphy's perfectly-phrased, sultry vocal.

As good as Murphy's other releases have been, this one surpasses all of them. It is simply a bravura performance throughout, with Murphy removing any doubt that she is one of the best of her generation. Few possess the power and range of her marvelous voice – and fewer still understand how to harness that talent to a razor-sharp focus capable of expressing the full gamut of human emotions. The year just started but this one is already on my “Best of the Year” list – making it highly recommended!

Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.

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