I gotta say, I have this question that keeps popping up. It’s about the blues, and the acceptance of singers into the fold, OK, maybe female singers might be a better way to put it.
Seems like whenever a young female ‘blues’ singer comes on the scene she is accepted, promoted, glorified and spread far and wide by the community, yet when we get pros who can sing in multiple keys, get low down or hit notes that only dogs hear, there sees to be a ‘meh’ reaction to their talents and they get put on the discount rack.
Yeah I am talking in this case about Shaun Murphy. If I need to go into her background I will simply state she has sung with Eric Clapton, Bob Seger and many more over her years. She has torn up The Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis two years straight as a guest singer to standing ovations. Just recently in Nashville, in front of some of that city’s finest crowds and judges of talent she got multiple standing ovations throughout her two numbers.
Let it be known that she first appeared at the Ann Arbor Blues Fest along with Son House, Muddy Waters, B.B. & Freddy King, so there are deep roots in this woman’s blues street cred.
What is it that people don’t get?
Why does there seem to be a lack of real support for her at festival booking time?
Does she need to wear revealing skirts?
I will now change gears and give a very rare CD review of her latest release, ‘It Won’t Stop Raining’ maybe it will open some eyes and ears.
It opens with a rollickin’, groaning track called ‘Spreadin’ The News’. It hits hard with a feel of good ol’ rock & roll with a swing to it that makes ya wanna dance. It’s a revelation type song of how she is spreadin’ the news of the blues which, should be foremost on everyone’s mind.
You want straight dirty blues, well she gives that to ya in spades. ‘Your Husband Is Cheating On Us’ a Denise LaSalle song who’s title just about ‘splains things in a straight forward manner. Ms. Murphy has an edge to her voice that makes you pay attention and works it’s way around the song as she growls and then smooth’s it out as a testament to the natcheral fact the he’s a no good cheatin’ man. With the exception of Ms. LaSalle there ain’t no one else I would rather hear ‘sang’ this. Maybe that’s the problem Ms. Murphy can ‘sang’ and not just sing, if you need to look up or ask about the difference then, well never mind. This could explain some of the questions I posed above.
The title track comes off smoothly and effortlessly via her well trained pipes. A ballad of sorts, that combines an actual bridge (whoa songwriting lesson 1) with thoughtful lyrics that Ms. Murphy delivers straight from the heart and soul.
A few well thought out covers are included besides Ms. LaSalle’s song. Two E.G. Kight songs that Ms. Murphy handles with a professional and soulful approach. One I must mention is the Otis Redding styled treatment of ‘That’s How A Woman Loves’.
Her penultimate track, ‘I Hate The Blues (But The Blues Sure Seems Loves Me)’ brings to mind certain Bobby Bland arrangements, who’s songs she has covered in previous releases. There is a growl that she has that sets one’s little hairs on edge, but she knows when to pull back and change speeds, after all one speed or level of delivery gets pretty boring whether or not it’s guitar, vocal or harp playing. To me this track shows off her abilities so well that it should be a staple of her live performances. Oh if you haven’t seen her perform you need to.
Through out this release she proves that her qualities as a vocalist are unparalleled as she expertly delivers each style and song like a hungry chicken on corn. The depth of her abilities and talent are right here for the enjoying and I hope you will listen and maybe spread the good word around.
So back to part one of this combo platter, what is it that is missing?
I cannot identify anything lacking. She can ‘sang’, has stage presence, a professional vocalist who has an amazing range and has performed on stage with some of the biggest names around in the blues and popular music.
Is that it? The popular music connection?
Yes she sings with Bob Seger, was asked to be the lead vocalist for Little Feat, been the preferred vocalist to back up and sing with Eric Clapton on such songs as ‘Forever Man’, ‘She’s Waiting’, etc.
If so then, that’s not a fair judgment on her. While we accept aging rockers into the genre, why are we not embracing a lady who is such a natural fit with us.
I am serious about this y’all, I can’t figure it out. Maybe it’s the trend to bring young people into the blues, or maybe it’s something else I can’t put a finger on?
Anyway you can find Shaun Murphy at http://www.shaunmurphyband.com/ and check out where and when she will be playing, well worth it.
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411
Our friend Carolyn Fe’ has replied to this post but we could not get her through the wall of protection on the site. It is on Facebook but we will post it below so that it gets seen. Thank you Carolyn for the reply.
What a great read and even better point about the challenges of the ‘mature’ female artists. IMHO, the industry is so focused on youth (ie, 35 yrs. and under) that talent beyond those years are not even considered. Here in Quebec (Canada) we have government sponsored arts grants and subsidies for what we call “La Relève” (Succession, Up and Coming) and only artists under the age of 35 are allowed to submit their applications. I recently challenged a selection committee wherein I asked why artistic succession has to come from youth only. There are artists who, for one reason or another; career change/family/life/luck, come to their stage as mature artists and/or late bloomers and are proving themselves to be top notch in their field, producing quality material and gaining a fan base. I pointed out that the % of our tax money that is distributed to the arts should not be discriminatory. I can tell you that there was silence in the room and after a few coughs and throat clearings, the chairman of the meeting acquiesced in a low mumbled voice.
…and then there are those who have paid their dues and built their credibility; those who are already making a living off their talents, have gained a fan base but for some unknown reason are pushed to the sides and ignored by the festivals for whatever reason. What is it with ageism especially when it comes to female performers?! This also crosses over to acting (I noticed that Shaun does some acting as well). Bringing young people to the Blues is important to continue the legacy but one must not forget that Blues has roots that dig deep, deep down and in my very humble opinion, only a life well lived can voice the Blues.