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Shaun Murphy - Live at Callahan’s Music Hall


14 tracks/70:08

At last year’s Blues Blast Music Awards show, singer Shaun Murphy electrified the audience with a stunning performance. For many of those in attendance that evening, that brief set was their first exposure to Murphy despite her star-studded resume. Over the years, Shaun has done numerous tours with Bob Seger and Eric Clapton as well as spending fifteen years as a member of Little Feat. Now she is blazing her own path, garnering critical praise for her last recording, Trouble With Lovin’.

Her latest release captures Murphy on stage at Callahan’s, the famous Detroit blues venue, backed by her veteran band that includes Larry Knight on guitar, Boyd LeFan on bass, Dave Nelson on drums and Larry Van Loon on keyboards plus Laura Creamer & Barbara Payton on backing vocals. The group has a tight sound that consistently provides a strong framework for Murphy’s powerhouse vocals. While Murphy is justifiably proud of her band, the inclusion of an instrumental version of “Amazing Grace” in the middle of the track list is a puzzling choice

Opening with KoKo Taylor’s “I Can Love You Like A Woman”, Murphy lays down a gritty vocal that pays tribute to one of her favorite singers. Next up are three songs from Trouble With Lovin’ sandwiched around an Etta James classic. Van Loon’s organ enlivens the arrangements on “Mississippi Water” and “That’s What Love Will Do” with Murphy displaying the full range of her potent voice. The band delivers a funky rendition of “Come to Mama” before Murphy and Van Loon do a vocal duet on “Hopelessly in Love With You”. Van Loon’s coarse voice serves as the perfect compliment to Murphy’s golden tone.

Highlights include Murphy rejoicing with gospel fervor on “Can’t No Grave Hold My Body Down” and strutting her sassy persona on “Someone Else is Steppin’ In”. She digs deep on “I Know Why the Sun Don’t Shine”, using the haunting slow blues to display all of the power and range her voice possesses. The addition of the Motor City Horns – Keith Kaminski on sax, Mark Byerly & Robert Jensen on trumpet, John Rutherford on trombone – brings an extra level of swagger to the proceedings. But Murphy is unfazed as her voice rings out on another KoKo tune, “Gonna Buy Me a Mule” and she rides the band’s rockin’ rhythm on “Love of Mine”, featuring a strong solo from Kaminski.

The band roars through Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood” with Van Loon pounding his piano and Knight firing off some razor-sharp licks. The disc closes with the quiet grace of “It Feels Like Rain” as Murphy’s passionate vocal conveys a sense of loss. Suddenly, she hits a note and holds it, lingering for nearly twenty seconds. Then she begins to testify like a southern Baptist preacher, building the tension until several soul-wrenching cries provide emotional release to end the disc.

Shaun Murphy is an amazing singer. She can holler and shout or caress lyrics with a light touch. She has the power, control and vocal range to sing anything she wants, any way she wants to. If you don’t believe me, give this disc a listen and you too will become a dedicated Shaun Murphy fan.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.

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