Elliott Murphy

Beauregard

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Murphy's first album for his new French label opens with the sound of church bells in Paris, where he has lived for years. After that opening, though, come lyrics that are heavily sprinkled with references to Texas, Memphis, New York City, Denver, and other stateside locales. Like most of Murphy's earlier albums, in other words, this one finds him preoccupied with his native America. That's not to say that the disc isn't full of surprises; in fact, it ranks among his most adventurous collections in quite some time. Among the boldest experiments: the hypnotic "O Wyoming," a sort of country rap number that's not at all what you'd expect from either Murphy or rap; the hook-laden "Hard Core," which may be Murphy's strongest bid yet for commercial success; and "Made in Freud," one of several tracks to feature the elegant violin work of Nils De Caster. Other highlights include the affecting "Somebodies Anniversary" (spelling may not be this artist's strong point); the lilting "Small Room," a rather improbable but nevertheless hard-to-resist tale of love and murder; and "Saint Elmo's Hotel," which features one of Elliott's finest lyrics about lost love. Throughout, Murphy sounds confident, energized, and eager to take chances. And the bulk of those chances pay off.

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