Blues Bytes


September 2009

an associate

Shaun Murphy
Livin' the Blues
Vision Wall

Shaun Murphy

Shaun Murphy’s Livin’ the Blues, just out on Vision Wall, is a stunner of a disc.

Murphy is one of those singers that you’ve heard before -- you just didn’t know it. She worked with Eric Clapton on Behind the Sun, sang backup on a few Bob Seger albums, and spent 15 years touring and recording with Little Feat. She recorded with Meatloaf, as Stoney and Meatloaf, for Motown (try to find that album!) and added backing vocals for Coco Montoya, Maria Muldaur, even the Moody Blues. She’s been around that popular and proverbial block a few times. To call her chops powerhouse is understatement. This is a seriously booty-kicking vocalist.

The long overdue debut album covers a full spectrum of classic and classy songs from the pens of Dylan, James Cotton, Billy Payne, John Hiatt and more. She nails every one. She does Big Maybelle especially proud, first on the grab-you-by-your-lapels opener, “Ocean of Tears,” and on the hook-laden “That’s a Pretty Good Love,” an early 1950s hit for Maybelle and a tune that Murphy cut with Little Feat.

On James Cotton’s “Livin the Blues” she sings that she “feels like rockin’ tonight,” and this collection certainly has elements of rockin' blues from every aspect of her career. Her take on ZZ Hill’s “Steppin’ Out” is sizzling and “Come to Mama” combines elements of both the Koko Taylor and the Bob Seger “Papa” versions.

She soars on “I Still Believe In the Blues” (“I can’t believe how hard it is trying to get by / I don’t believe the cost of living is headed for the sky / I can’t believe the way some people do the way the do / Oh, but I still believe in the blues”) and is equally compelling on “Taking Up Another Man’s Place,” an Isaac Hayes / Dave Porter heartbreaker of a blues that talks of abandonment and loss of love while taking it back to church. The flat out gospel of the traditional “Can’t No Grave Hold My Body Down,” with choral backup, is given a jaw-dropper of a reading.

“Hound Dog” gets the Big Mama Thornton take rather than the rockier Elvis Presley version, and its follow-up, “Rock and Roll Every Night,” out of the Little Feat song book, is a fine segue. Her closing take on John Hiatt’s “It Feels Like Rain” is a perfect mellow nightcap.

Throughout, Murphy is accompanied by a stall of first rate players. Bassist and vocalist Randy Coleman also serves as producer/engineer. Larry Loon plays all manner of keyboards and offers backing vocals, Kenne Cramer offers guitar work that runs from sizzling to nuanced, and the beat is in Mike Caputy’s able hands.

Tim Gonzales guests, blowing harp on Dylan’s "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” one of the real standouts on the disc. Check out the video on Murphy’s website ( This will be hard to beat for the best debut album of 2009. It’s a gem.

--- Mark E. Gallo


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