Album Review: Chris Murphy – Hard Bargain

It’s barely even been half a year since Chris Murphy released his last album but this is a man with a passion and talent that simply will not sleep. Much like Murphy himself, his music is warm, cheering and most importantly relentless.

This relentless and restless musicians urge has culminated in Hard Bargain, a live and solo recording on one of his many shows in the US. Hard Bargain gives you a wonderful opportunity to hear him in a tender and stripped back fashion which for those in the US might be commonplace but for those of us further afield without access to his live performances it is a real boon. It’s evident from the crowds cheering at the beginning of the album that Murphy has no small fan base and their eagerness and glee when he takes to the stage is contagious. When his warm and charismatic voice breaks into action above his phenomenal fiddle tunes you can feel yourself buried deep within that crowd clapping and cheering just as much.

With over 25 years working in the music industry to date it’s understandable that Murphy’s fiddle talents sit on another level entirely. His wrist-cracking tunes are soulful, empowering and the leading cause of restless leg syndrome as you cannot help but stomp your feet to the pounding beats he stomps out on stage. These astounding fiddle tunes are what fuels the fire that is Murphy’s performance but what is refreshing is how he sometimes gives way to bouts of pizzicato on songs such as Bugs Salcido which compared to the rest of his songs is almost simple but that’s far from the case. This dextrous finger plucking brings to life a catchy and vibrant tune that’s evocative of the friendly summer warming sound of a ukulele and the result is an invigorating and rowdy tune that will catch in your mind for days.

What makes Hard Bargain such a joyous treat is the simple intimacy that you get from it. Hearing Murphy’s live work with a studio quality sound is a real treat for those of us who cannot see him live and the stripped back nature of his songs gives you the warm infectious feeling that everyone in that room with him is clearly already feeling.

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Review by Joe Knipe