Willie Murphy‘s new album A Shot of Love in a Time of Need/Autobiographical Notes (Red House Records) is going to fly off shelves like stores are giving it away.
Not many musicians live up to the hackneyed term “living legend.” Murphy, the lion of Twin Cities blues, does so and more. As a guitarist you have to put him in the class with Mike Bloomfield. As a vocalist, he’s in there with Otis Redding. And he’s an incredibly strong songwriter. And no musician anywhere ever laid down a nastier or sweeter groove. Murphy doesn’t court publicity. Woodsheds a lot, happy as a pig in shit to just do his thing. So, if you haven’t heard of him don’t feel stupid. Just listen good at A Shot of Love in a Time of Need/Autobiographical Notes. Like that, your sins is forgave.
You also get a tour de force. Anchored in blues and R&B, these two CDs masterfully, indeed wondrously, span a gamut from gut-bucket to doo-wop to pop to jazz and back, all with a healthy helping of dyed-in-the-wool soul. Even plays and sings some sweet country music. He was going to launch A Shot of Love in a Time of Need/Autobiographical Notes with an in-house appearance at the Electric Fetus on November 10, but got himself injured. Damn shame. Let this cat loose in front of crowd and he will burn up asbestos. The release date’s still Nov. 10. Sooner or later he’ll be back in action. In the meanwhile, this is one hell of a recording.
Murphy leads with “Everything I Do Gon’ Be Funk (From Now On),” one of the tightest Allen Toussaint covers since Robert Palmer did “Let’s Fall In Love Tonight.” The arrangement snakes evil as sin, Murphy sangin’ – not singin’, but sangin’ – salty as the day is long. Quinton Claunch’s “Love Attack” follows, a ballad that is stone-cold Stax/Volt to the bone. Murphy unearths Chris Kenner’s ancient classic “Land of 1,000 Dances,” taking it through all kind of stank-nasty changes topped off by an adventurous, Electric-Flag-type ending. Murphy’s own “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” shakes like an earthquake. His jamfest gem “Mud Puddle” sneaks up on you, melodic percussion existential lyrics along the lines of “Reach over your head like a monkey/ Pull down that cloud of pain/ And float your little boat/ On the big mud puddle.” The cut is nearly ten minutes long and well worth listening to each second. He dedicates his song “Sometimes Dreams Come True” to the immortal Curtis Mayfield. It’s an angelic turn.
Willie Murphy’s A Shot of Love in a Time of Need/Autobiographical Notes dues admirable justice to sheer genius.