Review | Songlines

Sovereign

Rating: ★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details

Artist/band:

Chris Murphy

Label:

Friendly Folk Records

October/2021

Beginning with ‘Halfway Around the World’, this gathering of sidemen to the stars (British art-rocker Brian Auger, Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, Cuban percussionist Walfredo Reyes Jr, Morphine saxophonist Dana Colley, Iggy Pop bassist Hal Cragin et al) and Americana/roots luminaries (like Tim O’Brien) comes off as a rather staid West Coast country-rock revue. Songs like ‘Done with Diane’, ‘Boxed In’ and ‘Til the World Lifts its Head Again’ are slickly produced and sharply executed, but lack lyrical spark and soulful impact.

Business picks up with the album’s title-track, a Celtic-style, all-instrumental medley, which strikes a compelling, neo-traditional chord. In a similar vein, ‘Pear Blossom’, a jaunty, two-stepping bluegrass jam, gives the superbly talented players room to saw and strum with foot-stomping abandon. Doug Pettibone (guitar) and Murphy (violin) propel ‘Wind in My Eye’, a song about a wanderlust couple named Willy and Rose, with turbo-charged thrust. ‘Never the Same’ seduces with a beautiful combination of Roma and norteño flair, thanks to Luca Pino’s (Hedgehog Swing) Django-esque guitar. Despite initial misgivings, American singer-songwriter-violinist-mandolinist Murphy’s debut album on the Friendly Folk Records label achieves an appealing cross-genre balance.

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