Chris Murphy

Broken Wheel

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Although the subtitle of Broken Wheel is "Blues Violin Music," one shouldn't expect the album to be the second coming of Don "Sugarcane" Harris. More so than on the rest of Chris Murphy's thematically connected series of albums, there's only a tenuous connection to the blues on much of Broken Wheel. For example, songs like the opening "Butterfly Blues" are more like the kinds of mild R&B shuffles that suburban white boys often mistake for traditional blues. This is not to say that Murphy, who is an exceptionally talented musician with a deep understanding of many different forms of music, is himself guilty of this misapprehension, but merely that -- unlike the West Coast-style cool jazz of On a Blue Afternoon, the folk-rock playfulness of Juniper, and the spacy electro-prog of Salton Songs -- there's a small sense that on Broken Wheel, Murphy is pandering a bit, playing simplified, rock-oriented faux blues for an audience that has little interest in the real thing. On that level, Broken Wheel is quite good, but whether that's an endorsement is up to the listener.

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