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Music Review - `Reason To Try` by Shaun Murphy (jh)

Shaun MurphyReason To Try (click on image to watch video)

30 July 2019 


In another time Shaun Murphy should have been as popular as Bonnie Bramblett or even Bonnie Raitt. In more contemporary times, Murphy should be considered with Beth Hart, Carolyn Wonderland, and others who often draw more attention. She’s got the credentials which we’ll touch on shortly, and, more importantly, the deep soulful vocals. Murphy is not a songwriter or a guitarist. She’s just a powerhouse vocalist that, for whatever reason, never got the marketing push her solo work that many others did.  

Consider these aspects of her outstanding resume. She was the lead vocalist for Little feat for 15 years, she had lead parts on Broadway for Hair and Sgt. Pepper, and recorded under the moniker Stoney with Meatloaf on Motown.  Maybe we should excuse that misstep, but she compensated quickly by joining Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band who are now making their final tour. She appeared on Eric Clapton’s Behind the Sun and toured worldwide with him twice, including Live Aid. Yes, Murphy has paid her dues and her solo work across now nine albums has earned her three Grammy nominations. She has won two Blues Blast Awards but remains far from a household name.

Reason to Try is clearly one of her strongest solo albums, having made the sound decision to turn the producer reins over to Kevin McKendree (Delbert McClinton, John Hiatt, Tinsley Ellis) and the engineering to Kevin’s son, Yates. Kevin plays piano and synths while Eric Roberts, her keyboardist sticks to the B3. Murphy’s five piece band also includes drummer Tom Delrossi, bassist John Marcus and often searing guitar work from both Kenne Cramer and Tommy Stillwell. Miqui Gutierrez guests on saxophone.

Murphy at this point in her career has nothing to prove but she brings power and authenticity that’s immediately convincing.  She’s a natural who would never dare simply “phone it in.”  These are mostly blues tunes and ballads that might be rather indistinctive without the stamp of Murphy’s emotive vocals. One trait that separates her from others is the ability to change the tempo and format within the tune, exemplified by both “Hurt Me Good” and “Can’t Blame Nobody But Me” which she begins in ballad form before transforming them into stompers.  She’s equally compelling with the driving tunes as she is with the full ballads. The standouts of the former include “Power of Love,” “Same Old You,” “Thang for You” and “Dancing in the Sun.”  The ballads raise the temperature too, especially “Don’t Come Crying to Me” and the title track, which features outstanding McKendree piano. They are clearly two of the project’s strongest moments. Interestingly, she delivers another worthy entry, Bob Seger’s “Someday.” 

Reason to Try is a consistently strong soul/blues statement throughout. Murphy’s enigmatic career, full of accolades and awards but still deserving of even more recognition, can’t help but be boosted by this terrific effort.


Jim Hynes



Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here




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