Forgotten series: Matt "Guitar" Murphy – Lucky Charm (2000)

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by Derrick Lord

When you mention Matt “Guitar” Murphy around people who think they know something about blues music, but really don’t … you frequently get a response of rolled eyes.

See, Murphy is mostly known by his work in the Blues Brothers movies and not his works in the studio and on the stage. If that’s all you know about him, you are cheating yourself. The credentials are there, and Murphy has played with some of the greats of the scene.

Since taking up the guitar at the age of 13, Murphy has worked with Howlin’ Wolf, Little Junior Parker, Ike Turner, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Etta James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Chuck Berry, Little Junior Parker, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Memphis Slim and Etta James, while touring with Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams and others too numerous to mention.

Fast forward to 2000’s Lucky Charm from Roesch Records, where Murphy included 11 tunes — with none of them weak. One of the best things about this album was the large range of styles you will hear. It’s what the old timers called eclectic.

The opening number, “Boogie Overture” is a nasty little instrumental with a ZZ Top-style boogie riff, and some great fret work by Murphy. The Blues Brothers Horns — “Blue” Lou Marini, Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin, and Birch “Slide” Johnson — keep things good and groovy, right off the bat. I really like the acoustic cut “What’s Up with You, Baby?,” while “Who’s Got the Puddy?” is a funky little tune that will put a smile on your face. The piano work on the title cut “Good Luck Charm” by Leon Pendarvis is first rate. This number doesn’t belong on some high-tech CD; it belongs in a backwoods Mississippi juke joint — where you always have too much to drink and chances are good you might see your woman come in with another man.

On “Willie Mae,” Murphy, Pendarvis, bassist Tom Barney and Sax Gordon get jazzy, with each taking the lead at various points in the song. Next up is another song with a jazz feel, “Oh No, I’m Falling In Love Again” — where you will continue to be amazed by Murphy. He can do anything he wants with a guitar and knows it. Marini really sounds great on “Wille Mae,” and makes you wonder what the hell ever happened to horn sections?

Vocals on the album are shared by Murphy, David Foster, Howard Eldridge and Pendarvis, which gives the whole thing the great feel of a garage-band jam. The Roesch “style” of recording records is one I wish everyone would emulate — less studio crap and more artists playing music.

As for Murphy, Belushi and Aykroyd were no fools when they signed Matt to the Blues Brothers Band. He’s often overshadowed in his own stomping grounds of Chicago by the Louisiana legend Buddy Guy, but after all, who can really touch Guy? Murphy must know how Scottie Pippen felt in the days of Michael Jordan. Pippen was a great one in his own right, and the same can definitely be said for Matt “Guitar” Murphy.

He knows the music inside and out. Don’t miss this album if you love the blues, and next time, make sure you give Murphy his props. He can get the job done as well as anybody, and better than most.

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Derrick Lord

Derrick Lord

An Alabama-based blues- and roots-music lover, Derrick Lord was an original co-founder, with S. Victor Aaron and Nick DeRiso, of the music site that grew into Something Else! Reviews. One of Nick's all-time favorite meals happened with Derrick, at the legendary Dreamland BBQ. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Derrick Lord
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  • Brian Martin

    Live portion of the video features Tim O’Donnell of the Port Salerno based band “The Nouveux Honkies. Since backing Matt at the Sebastian FL blues fest several years ago, Tim has been instrumental in taking Matt on the road, and the Honkies are used as his backing band. If you’d like to know more about Tim and the Honkies check out their website: http://tnhband.com/

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