Delta Snake Blues©
Editor/Publisher: Al Handa
September, 1997 Issue, No. 20
The Online Blues ’Zine
CHRIS MURPHY: “Time And Space”
(Born Cry’n’ Music)
Chris is a South Carolina singer and guitarist with one of the most interesting fusions of country, folk, and blues I’ve heard in a long time. The music has a predominently old time bluegrass feel, with the singing as blue as it gets. His voice is a cross between an old country singer and yodeller, with a touch of falsetto thrown in. His picking style and textures draw on diverse sources such as Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Boy Fuller, and perhaps Merle Travis.
The music opens with the uptempo "All That You Could Do," a swinging country tribute to his mother, moving from there to "From Each Direction," a bluegrass flavored ballad. "Sweet Annie Drowned," is an celtic lament with a country feel in the vocal. An lively instrumental rag called "Slipstream" follows, and shows the listener that Chris is a pretty hot picker in the old Carolina style.
"Time and Space" is a bluegrass ballad with a nice "lonesome" style sound, followed by an uptempo minor key bluegrass style number called "Life and the Land." A medium tempo cover of Blind Boy Fuller called "Walking My Troubles Away" follows, leading to another fine fast picking instrumental called "Happy Cat." Sort of a cross between a blues rag with some passages that sound old-timey.
"Little Egypt" is a old time country song, leading to a radically different version of Mississippi John Hurt’s "Sliding Delta." Chris picks it straight on guitar for a bit, then comes in with a vocal that moves up into falsetto (country style). It’s a bit jarring to someone who knows the original well, but if you give this version a listen, it’ll connect for sure. It’s an unusual, and great version.
"I Think It’s A Rag," is yet another fine instrumental in the regional rag style. I think I’d enjoy an all instrumental record by this guy. The music ends with a minor key rag, with a bluegrass style vocal on top.
Lots of artist claim to be different, and Chris is no different. However, he’s explored a territory I haven’t seen visited to this extent. As most of you know (well, you know now), bluegrass music came from black music, and the two forms have diverged ever since. However, what Murphy has done is take the old country and bluegrass back towards the blues again, and as a result, has come up with an effort that just about any fan of acoustic roots music will love.
Author’s Note: The reference to Black music being a source and influence on Bluegrass comes from Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass.