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Shaun Murphy – I’m Coming Home

Shaun Murphy – I’m Coming Home

Vision Wall Records

Since 2009, when I first reviewed her Livin’ The Blues CD, I’m Coming Home will be the tenth release by Shaun Murphy that we have had the honor and privilege of working with. By the way, over these fourteen years, that averages out to a very impressive, and possibly unprecedented, release every seventeen months. Wow!

On I’m Coming Home, vocalist extraordinaire Shaun Murphy is joined by: Tom DelRossi on drums and vocals; John Marcus on bass; Kenne Cramer on guitars and vocals; Tommy Stillwell on guitars and vocals; the albums producer, Kevin McKendree on all keyboards; Dana Robbins on saxophone; and Austin Hoke on cello. The recording contains a dozen tracks, of which three are originals.

I’m going to kick things off with “I’m Coming Home”, the disc’s title track and the first of its three originals. Penned by Shaun and Kevin, it’s an absolutely beautifully done ballad that showcases both of their extraordinary talents: Shaun’s always flawless and mesmerizing vocals and Kevin’s always flawless and mesmerizing piano playing. Speaking of extraordinary talent, the accompanying cello performance by Austin Hoke gives the conversation Shaun is having with God that perfect heavenly feel.

“Keep Your Head Above Water” is another original penned by Shaun and her two outstanding guitarists, Tommy Stillwell and Kenne Cramer. It’s a most interestingly produced track in which the rhythm and the lyrics combine to give it a chain gang feel, while the vocals create a hymnal effect. It’s a song that addresses the ever-increasing struggles people encounter as new obstacles confront them at every turn – something Shaun thought she’d never see, in this land of opportunity. That said, the best thing any of us can do is to follow Shaun’s goal of keeping her head above water and the rest of herself above ground. In addition to their excellent tandem guitar leads, Kenne and Tommy, along with Tom DelRossi, are nailing their somber sounding backing vocals.

On this track, Shaun challenges her man to a duel, and she states, he’d be a fool not to take the dare. It’s called “Lover Take All” (S. Jones, J. Silbar) and it’s an obvious win/win situation. I mean c’mon how do you not say yes when Shaun Murphy says, “I just want to nail you to a wall”? Exactly! It’s a smokin’ dance floor filler led by the thunderous rhythm that Tom and John are hammering out on the drums and bass being taken up a notch by Kevin’s ferocious organ and piano leads. Then there’s that wonderful luxury Shaun is so lucky to have – not one, but two of the best guitarists in the business – Tommy and Kenne just totally rockin’ out.

So, while listening to the thirty second scorching blues guitar intro and knowing that “High Price to Pay” (P. Warren) was five minutes long, I found myself thinking “Damn! I can listen to just that for the next four-and-a-half minutes”. Then the powerhouse came in with that patented dominating, attention commanding, attitude slinging, vocal style of hers, on a line that went “I don’t care what you say or do………” and I came to my senses. I have been very fortunate to have seen Shaun Murphy more times than I can actually remember and yet, every time I hear her pull stuff like this off, I still shake my head in awe. That said, that killer guitar intro was not the last of the scorching blues licks and the track may very well be Tommy and Kenne’s best effort on the disc.

Other than being a bit toned down – and I only mean pace wise – a ballad titled “If You Still Love Me” (P. Warren) is pretty much more of the same. When Shaun lights a torch, there are none that burn hotter. If I were to go back and reread all my prior reviews of her work, I’m sure I’ll find a sentence – or more – where I said I can listen to her sing songs like this all day long. Between both of these last two songs being five minutes long, this was by far the best ten minutes of my day.

Shaun’s association with Meat Loaf (R.I.P.) certainly had to influence how “I’m Not Made That Way” (K. Greenberg, G. Nicholson, W. Wilson) was performed. From its opening raucous guitars, to the frenzied pounding of the drums, to the clamorous organ chords, to Shaun attempting to shatter any nearby glass, this one is an out-of-control downhill train. Whoa!

“Evil Memory” (T. W. Stillwell, L. W. Grisham) is the last of the three originals. Being written by her guitarist, you’d probably expect to hear some monster ax work and you’d be right. On his own song Tommy is all over that. Also, all over it is Shaun, as she showcases her unmatched vocal range and note holding abilities. As a matter of fact, while singing the word “eviilllllllllllll”, she held the note for over ten seconds. Yes, I replayed and timed it.

If there was ever anyone who excelled in being blunt in songs…..especially the one’s about men, it was the late and great Denise LaSalle. That woman flat out told it like it was, and on this song of her’s titled “Too Many Lovers”, Shaun is indeed up to that task. According to the ladies, there are too many people trying to be a star, when they don’t actually know who they are; too many men thinking they’re the best but too many fools will make a big mess; there are too many machos and not enough men; and too many lovers and not enough love. While Shaun’s dishing out the attitude, the rest of the band is dishing out a whole lot of funk.

Other tracks on an album I know you’ll all want to get your hands on are:
“One More Last Time” (J. Paris); “Linger A Little Longer” (C. Jacobs, C. Pearman); “If I Knew” (T. Castro, J. Paris); and “When Is This Rain Gonna End” (K. Greenberg, G. Barnhill).

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