Reason To Try
Vision Wall Records
Shaun Murphy was initially inspired by the blues and the women who sang it including Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor, and Etta James. She found work in the theater eventually leading to a Motown recording contract. Her first album, “Stoney and Meatloaf”, was a collaborative effort released in 1971 on The Motown Records subsidiary Rare Earth. Murphy went on to tour as a background singer for both Bob Seger and Eric Clapton. She was later asked to join Little Feat as a full-time member and spent nearly 16 years with them, her vocal performances becoming some of that re-grouped bands favorite moments.
Murphy eventually left Little Feat and formed the Shaun Murphy Band recording her solo debut “Livin’ The Blues” in 2009. More albums followed. Over the years she stepped up, her determination and resolve finally being acknowledged. In 2013 she received two Blues Blast Awards: Best Contemporary Blues Album and Female Blues Artist of The Year. Murphy also has three Grammy nominations; and received a 2017 Blues Music Award nomination for Traditional Blues Female Artist a.k.a. The Koko Taylor Award. She is momentarily content with her achievements and still sings rock, blues, soul, country, and gospel, always performing in support of the song; and always in search of good songs.
The Shaun Murphy Band is a world class unit of Nashville’s finest musicians. Included are vocalist Murphy, guitarists Kenne Cramer and Tommy Stillwell; keyboardists Eric Roberts and Kevin McKendree; and the rhythm section of John Marcus, bass; and Tom DelRossi, drums. Saxophonist Miqui Gutierrez guests throughout the recording. This is the Shaun Murphy Band’s ninth recording produced by McKendree at his Rock House Studio in the suburb of Franklin, Tn. This is Murphy’s first album in awhile without any of her originals, and since Nashville is also home to some of our finest songwriters, a passionately performed collection of songs by hometown friends.
“Hurt Me Good” was written by Canadian native Daryl Burgess who has called Nashville his home since 1995, and Joanna Cotten. Burgess is a Juno Award winner who has written songs for Colin James, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, Mark Chesnutt and others. He also plays in the Nashville based Southern Rock and Blues band “Rattle Bone” with keyboardist Johnny Neel, bassist Dennis Gulley, and guitarist Chris Anderson. On the intro McKendree’s organ takes us to church as Murphy expresses that “If your gonna’ hurt me babe, you better hurt me good, if your gonna’ take me down you better make it so I can’t get up again, if I get up I’m gonna’ be mad as a snake, I’ll find a way make no mistake, your gonna’ rue the day..”. The tempo changing as she makes the funky proclamation that she will even the score. Murphy is perfect on this opening production. “Road House Rockin’” from the above mentioned Neel a member of the Allman Brothers from 1989-1990, and co-writer Doug Jones, is another great vehicle for Murphy’s powerful pipes. The rockin’ “Rumor Mill” is another fun song from Dennis, his brother Russell Gully, and Collins Kirby, the later the founder of the New Orleans Cigar Box Festival.
Marc-Alan Barnette calls himself a performing songwriter and coach as he also teaches. He has written “Can’t Blame Nobody But Me” with Ron Muir, and co-written “Thang For You” with Jimbeau Hinson. Both of these feature saxophonist Gutierrez. The latter is an amazingly soulful performance from Murphy.
Other rockin’ tunes include “Turn Me On” written and first recorded in 2010 by South Carolina’s J. Edwards, now living in Nashville; and “Love The Man” from Nashville’s Ricky Ray Rector who songs have been recorded by Ruth Brown, Waylon Jennings, Tony Jo White, Maria Muldaur and many others. Shaun is fabulous as she sings “you gotta love the man, trust and understand” with Stillwell on slide and McKendree on piano.
“We’ll be Dancing in The Sun” is from Kenny Greenberg, who performs with his wife as a duo. He and his wife Ashley Cleveland wrote “Power of Love” first recorded by her in 2002. The title track, “Reason To Try”, is a slow ballad by Danny Flowers and another compelling lyric, with both Mckendree and organist Robert. Murphy is outstanding on these additional performances.
The fabulous “Don’t Come Crying To Me” was written by Dave Steen, a former sideman for both Albert Collins and John Mayall, and Coco Montoya’s regular writing partner. Two more songs are from Murphy’s guitarist Cramer; “Welcome To Bluesville”, co-written with Stillwell, references “the dark end of the street”; and “Same Old You” co-written with Karen Leipziger. Murphy also covers “Someday” written by Seger and first waxed in 1972 on his album “Smokin’ O.P.’s”, the title signifying “other people’s songs”. These are three more well chosen songs.
At this stage of her career I am convinced that Murphy can achieve whatever she sets her mind to. She can contend for additional blues awards by mixing in classic covers or sing more contemporary styled material as she does on this new album. I love the way the album was conceived. Bottom line these songs fit Murphy like a glove. Combined with a great band and McKendree’s production, “Reason To Try” is another great studio recording from Murphy.