Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chris Murphy - The Tinker’s Dream

Chris Murphy - The Tinker’s Dream 

The Tinker’s Dream, Chris Murphy’s third album since May of 2016, is a new high in the career of this New York City born songwriter and recording artist. There’s a dozen tracks on his latest album, the vast majority of them instrumentals, and Murphy’s capacity for crafting fine melodies that linger in the memory is virtually unparalleled in the modern music world. They are top shelf in every respect. These aren’t the sort of simple, condensed melodies that hook into listeners at a shallow depth; their genuine catchiness reflects the skill of their composer and the vital urgency with which they are delivered ensures that they aren’t soon forgotten. Murphy’s worked with the cream of the crop in the singer/songwriter genre, but also sterling instrumental talents, and he brings an unique confluence of those two schools to bear on his solo work. The twelve compositions on The Tinker’s Dream soar with virtuosity and solid fundamentals while still speaking to our emotions and experiences.  

Songs like “Connemara Ponies” are especially geared to engage our imaginations. It isn’t a stretch to say that, in reality, Chris Murphy isn’t in the music business at all when he’s performing a song this powerful. Instead, he’s in the transportation business and “Connemara Ponies” moves listeners from the quantifiable world around them and, instead, invokes panoramic landscapes and enormous green vistas where majestic animals run free. The title number picks up some on that same vibe, but it isn’t quite as dramatic and feels a little more earthbound. It does share some of the same energy and it’s a pair of songs like this early on that helps The Tinker’s Dream get off to such an uplifting start. Murphy’s first venture into singer/songwriter territory on the album, “Wicklow”, has a pretty standard but solid lyric that he delivers with just the right amount of relaxed, almost laconic personality. The musical arrangement is never subservient to the singing, lyrics, or vocal melody and Murphy proves just as adept handling this sort of material as ever. 

“Gibraltar 1988” is, arguably, the most spartan musical recording on The Tinker’s Dream and doesn’t front load the song with a bevy of instruments or breathless pacing like many of the other tracks. There’s a definite melancholic note struck here, but it doesn’t dominate the track or its mood. The second stab at the singer/songwriter genre comes with “Cape Horn”, a much more elaborate and ultimately more successful revision of the earlier song “Wicklow”. The similarities between the two song’s lyrical themes are not uniform and Murphy conjures up a much strong first person voice for this outing than the previous one. “Small Wonder” is the final track with lyrics on The Tinker’s Dream and it is a distinctly different trip than the preceding two. This is much more a song about interpersonal relations than the storytelling focus of the earlier tracks and has a much better, more memorable, chorus. The album closes out with “The Hayloft Waltz”, a wonderfully elegant instrumental that ends The Tinker’s Dream on the same upbeat note that started the album.  

8 out of 10 stars  

Scott Wigley

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