Every once in a great while you’ll hear a creative genius who likes to do his own thing and have a great time while doing it. Willie Murphy is one of these characters, and on "Hustlin’ Man Blues" we are invited to join the party that he and his band, "The Angel Headed Hipsters" whip up. Comprised of Michael Velasquez on the drums, Marbue Williams on bass, Max Ray on tenor bass, "The Angel Headed Hipsters" are joined by Frank Stribling on guitar for "Built for Comfort," and additional horns played by Sam Gamire and Umé Sporteu. Willie handles the vocals, keyboards and guitar, joins Todd Gallagher as recording engineer and produces the recording.
"Hustlin’ Man Blues" takes a ride through a variety of bluesy styles. Willie Murphy and the Angel Headed Hipsters provide us with fresh, new arrangements that completely renovate some old classics. They jump and swing on "Reelin & Rockin" and "Hustlin’ Man Blues," get down and dirty for "My Mama Said" and ""My Own Fault," and slide into smooth R&B for "Cry To Me." Their version of "Spoonful" even modulates into a jazzy wayside for a spell. I swear, before Willie Murphy’s characteristic, unmistakably individualistic, and remarkably well delivered vocalization starts in on the rearrangement of the Willie Dixon penned, Howlin’ Wolf classic "Built for Comfort," (one of three Dixon/Wolf songs), I thought I had mistakenly put on a Professor Longhair CD of New Orleans piano. Talk about a rollicking version!!
One of the two songs on the CD that Willie Murphy wrote titled, "What Daddy Wants (Momma Needs)" and the rearranged "Built for Comfort" are probably my two favorites on the album but there really isn’t a clunker in the bunch so it’s hard to say. The only moments I find hard to listen to are a few seconds of a faux siren whistle at the very beginning and end of the title cut, "Hustlin’ Man Blues." If Willie intended the siren to represent the cacophony, confusion, and the idea of being "one step ahead of the law" in the life of a hustlin’ man, he is very effective in delivering on this premise. To be fair, the rest of the song is great and I hesitate to even mention a few seconds of, "hey, turn it down," as compared to the song after song of , "hey, turn it up!" This CD is a keeper (and except for about 5 seconds…) is very enjoyable to listen to from start to finish. Muttbucket gives Willie Murphy and the Angel Headed Hipsters "Hustlin’ Man Blues," a Muff Ugga record, 4 out of 5 buckets.
Muff Ugga records, 2206 17th Ave. S. Mpls, MN 55404. Manufactured and Distributed by Atomic Theory Records, Inc., 106 W. 49th St., Mpls., MN 55409
For more information about Willie Murphy and the Angel Headed Hipsters, visit Willie Murphy’s home page:
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This review is copyright © 1999 by Stephen T. Davidson (Muttbucket), and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.