Chris Murphy – The Tinker’s Dream
The latest studio album from Chris Murphy, The Tinker’s Dream, is a winner from the start and never disappoints. Murphy’s growing discography and long list of guest starring credits as made him one of the most respected instrumental talents in any genre currently working on the modern music scene and he shows a willingness to tackle any sort of material. Moreover, he has the skill to go into any style and make it his own. His talents as an arranger and composer cannot be overlooked. Nine out of the album’s dozen tracks are instrumentals, but they all sing with musical grace thanks to the abundant melodies created from Murphy’s violin and his fine accompanying musicians. The non-instrumental tracks have broad-based merit as well; Murphy might not demonstrate the same fiery command over his vocal chords that he possesses over his fiddle strings, but he’s more than capable of turning in a good lyric and embodying the story in his delivery.
His playing skill embodies a story on many of the instrumental tracks as well. One of the album’s best examples of this is the first cut “Connemara Ponies”. The title and musical mood come together to tell a story that’s a bit of a throwback to an earlier time, but is still rife with a sense of adventure and unending possibilities. Murphy’s performance on this song should garner him fulsome praise from every quarter – there’s simply endless inventiveness in how he attacks, coaxes, and finesses his instrumental to ever greater melodic heights. “Union of the Seven Brothers” has the same melodic sophistication even if it is a little slower and doesn’t engage listeners with the same colorful flourish. “The Tinker’s Dream” is a fine title track that comes surprisingly early in the running order – it’s a sign of self-confidence to move the needle in that direction and the song justifies this with its quick-thinking and musically entertaining presentation.
“Wicklow” is the first track with vocals on the album and it’s one of The Tinker’s Dream’s most entertaining numbers. Much of the credit for this should go to Murphy’s often beaming and well-phrased vocal. Much like his tasteful musical talents, Murphy never pushes hard enough on the vocal to risk dragging it into over-theatricality. Instead, it’s warm, friendly, and inviting. “Cape Horn” has a similar effect. The storytelling and voice powering this lyric is a bit stronger than what we heard on the aforementioned song, but they both share a certain romantic fatalism that neatly dovetails with their traditional roots and Murphy sings with just as much credibility. “The Artful Dodger” and “The Tower” are both instrumentals cut from the same emotional cloth as the first song and title cut, but the former has stronger traditional roots. The final instrumental on the album and last overall song, “The Hayloft Waltz”, is a beautifully arranged piece that doesn’t accentuate the time signature but, instead, concentrates on conveying the melody as directly as possible. The Tinker’s Dream begins and ends on a strong note and there are few lulls in between.
8 out of 10 stars