Vision Wall Records
Shaun Murphy was initially inspired by the Blues but found work in the theater. That led to a Motown recording contract as the duo known as Stoney and Meatloaf; Stoney being Murphy. She later became a backing singer touring with Bob Seger and Eric Clapton.
Murphy met Bill Payne and Fred Tackett of Little Feat and appeared on the re-grouped band’s album. She was later asked to join Little Feat as a full member and spent nearly 16 years with them. Over the years her performances became some of the bands best moments.
In 2009 Murphy finally broke from Little Feat to record her first solo album “Livin The Blues”. On the liner notes Murphy wrote “a tip of the hat to my most influential mentors Miss Koko Taylor and Miss Etta James who have shaped the world of blues into what it is today”. We heard a singer on the verge of a new beginning.
Murphy became a proficient songwriter and followed up with more recordings; still trying to fulfill something deep inside her. Finally in 2013 she received two Blues Blast Awards; Female Blues Artist of The Year and Best Contemporary Blues Album of The Year (for her 2012 album “Ask For The Moon”). In 2015 Murphy released her mostly original blues rock album “Loretta” and in 2016 followed up with “It Won’t Stop Raining”. She received a 2017 Blues Music Award nomination for Traditional Blues Female Artist a.k.a.The Koko Taylor Award. Over the years Murphy has stepped up, her determination and resolve finally being acknowledged.
The Shaun Murphy Band currently includes Murphy, vocals, shakers and tambourine; Producer Kevin McKendree, keyboards; Kenne Cramer and Tommy Stillwell, guitars; John Marcus, bass; and Tom DelRossi, drums. The album was recorded and mixed by McKendree at his Rock House Studio in Franklin, Tennessee.
Murphy calls “Mighty Gates” a multi-genre recording but Murphy hasn’t changed. She is still the blues rocker and a traditionalist. She has also written or co-written seven new songs for this recording.
The opener “I Don’t Need Nobody” is from guitarist Cramer who has been part of Murphy’s touring band since she first embarked on a solo career. Murphy’s voice is warm and sultry. McKendree is on the B-3. “Blues in The Morning” also written by Cramer features a raspy vocal from Murphy as McKendree switches to piano. Cramer’s guitar leads shine.
Murphy also draws inspiration from some of her “favorite artists she met along the way”. “Down The Honky Tonk” is from Frankie Miller, a Scottish rock singer, who recorded in Muscle Shoals Alabama; worked with Allen Toussaint and The Memphis Horns; and wound up as an influence on Seger. Also from Miller and Andy Fraser is “Be Good To Yourself”. On these two songs, first recorded in 1977, Murphy rocks hard.
“Mighty Gates”, the title track, has a church-like quality provided by McKendree’s organ and Murphy’s gospel tinged vocal. The song was written by Dobie Gray whose other hits include 1965’s “The In Crowd” and 1973’s “Drift Away”.
“Walk in My Shadow” is from Paul Rodgers and his band “Free” who first recorded the song in 1969. Guitarists Cramer and Stillwell are awesome together. Murphy’s vocal is inspired.
Murphy’s originals include “Out of My Own Way” featuring a funky groove from her band; and the driving “Slightly Free” written with Doug Jones.
The sensitive “On A Night Like This” features Stillwell on slide and a beautiful vocal from Murphy. Both this and “Gypsy Highway” were written with Jones and Nashville’s Johnny Neel. The latter features McKendree on both organ and piano.
“That Kind of Time” and “I Never Stopped Loving You” were both written with Gary Nicholson. The closer “I Never Loved You”, written with Jones and Chris Anderson, might be a different attitude on the relationship described in the previous song.
Murphy and her band never sounded better. Murphy has an eye on the future but also has deep respect for the past. Murphy makes sense of everything she’s learned. On “Mighty Gates” she is both student and teacher. This is highly recommended listening.
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