When Matt "Guitar" Murphy's name comes up, people are inclined to identify his career with his appearances as Aretha Franklin's hen-pecked husband and guitarist in The Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000 movies. However, the 71-year-old guitarist led a storied career prior to his big screen debut. The highlights of his career include work as lead guitarist with Junior Parker's Blue Flames and recording with Parker and Bobby Bland. After moving to Chicago in 1952, Murphy worked with Memphis Slim, Sam Chatman, and James Cotton. In 1990, Murphy finally broke out as a solo artist with the release of Way Down South on the Antone's label.
Lucky Charm is Matt Murphy's third solo release and his second for Roesch Records, following his 1996 release, Blues Don't Bother Me. The new CD is a great collection of all new original material by Murphy backed by an all-star band including Leon Pendarvis (keyboards) Tom Barney (bass) from the NBC Saturday Night Live Band, Matt's nephew Floyd Murphy, Jr. (drums) and The Blues Brothers Horns; "Blue" Lou Marini (sax), Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin (trumpet) and Birch "Slide" Johnson (trombone). The CD also includes a guest appearance by Sax Gordon Beadle on two songs, "Who's Got The Puddy" and "Willie Mae." Vocals are shared by Murphy, David Foster, Howard Eldridge and Leon Pendarvis, adding yet another variation to the sound.
Murphy's guitar work and song selection for Lucky Charm demonstrates a great range of styles of blues and soul. The inclusion of Gordon Beadles' sax on the two previously mentioned songs and The Blues Brothers Horns on the opener, "Boogie Overture," and closing number, "Headin' Northwest" really provides another dimension to Murphy's sound.
Lucky Charm is one variety-packed CD, offering a potpourri of styles and sounds. The opening number, "Boogie Overture" is an instrumental that opens with a ZZ top style boogie riff, building to several crescendos by Murphy with intermittent blasts from The Blues Bothers Horns. The following song, "What's Up With You Baby" provides a simpler blues sound with definite delta leanings. Murphy plays both bass and guitar on the song with his nephew, Floyd Murphy, Jr. on drums.
On "Who's Got The Puddy," the sound changes again as Murphy gets a little funky. The inclusion of Sax Gordon Beadle who blows some nasty sax makes this one of the hotter numbers on the CD. The variation continues with "Good Luck Charm" and its "Muddy" down home groove. Leon Pendarvis' throws some nice keyboard into this song that blends Chicago and Memphis blues sounds.
Before returning for another funk filled tune on "Got Me Carrying A Stick," featuring Leon Pendarvis on vocals, Murphy gets a bit more soulful with "I Remember." Despite the variations up to this point, the CD holds together quite well. The Chicago/Memphis mix returns on the second instrumental "J.F.A.," again filled with a nice combination of guitar and keyboards.
On "Willie Mae" the mood of the music takes another twist on a jazzier tune where Murphy, Pendarvis, bassist Tom Barney and Sax Gordon all take the lead at various points in the song. This is followed by a little smoother jazz on "Oh No, I'm Falling In Love Again" where Murphy continues to dazzle the listener with his incredible versatility and command of the guitar.
For the two final numbers, Murphy performs some straight ahead Chicago style blues for "Time To Move On" before finishing with a third instrumental called "Headin' Northwest." "Headin' Northwest" provides some crisp guitar and one last blast from The Blues Brothers Horns for the final onslaught.
Whether it's live or film or a musical recording, Matt "Guitar" Murphy consistently proves that he is one damn fine guitarist. Without reservation, Lucky Charm is Murphy's finest recorded solo work yet and requests a fine addition to any blues collection. To pick up your copy of Lucky Charm, visit your local blues record outlet or visit the Roesch Records website at www.roeschrecords.com.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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