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Gig review: T-J & Murphy @ The View Two Gallery
Liverpool Acoustic Live – Friday 23rd July 2010
T-J & Murphy supported by Jeff Jepson and Simon Cousins: A night of acoustic guitars and voices.
Since my first encounter with T-J & Murphy, I have never been able to get enough of their music, eagerly awaiting their selective gigs but none more than this performance because of the intimate nature of the space and in anticipation of new material for their impending second CD.
As regular support to T-J & Murphy, I have also heard Jeff Jepson on several occasions but usually in venues with sound systems and engineers unsympathetic to his unusual vocal renditions, so was unsure whether I had actually ‘heard’ him.
Simon Cousins I had no knowledge of but based on previous Liverpool Acoustic selections, was curious about.
See www.myspace.com/sicousins for information about Simon
I admire Liverpool Acoustic for giving new artists a platform to develop and explore their performing skills, how else can a musician grow. One such is Simon, who took the first brave step, introducing the night with classic covers and his own material, some plucked fresh from dreamscapes recalled on awakening.
Performing to a sea of faces and focused eyes and ears, barely a few feet away, I have no idea how Simon plucked up the courage to even begin but he did, nervously at first but gaining confidence.
Let us hope courage does not desert, that he continues his journey of discovery and can carve a path through a crowded musical world which can be harsh but also unbelievably rewarding.
I must admit to having heard respected local musician, Jeff Jepson, more often by chance, than by design and on those occasions though taken and fascinated by his melodies found inadequate sound systems and unsympathetic engineers struggling with the timbre of his voice and thought I had not really listened to his songs. Therefore, I was anxious to hear him in a more stripped down environment.
Strangely, as I listened, I found myself subconsciously singing along in the realisation that several of his songs had surreptitiously instigated themselves in my mind. Until then, I had no idea they were in my head!
Unfortunately, the intimate and naked environment of View Two and the combination of Jeff’s unusual but compelling voice with miked acoustic ‘cello, usually one of my favourite instruments in its mimicry of the human voice, illustrated how difficult an act he is to sound mix, with ‘cello and voice fighting uncomfortably, possibly pure acoustic or muted ‘cello might have provided an easier balance for two such strong and individual sources of sound.
Luckily, by one of my favourite and most remembered of his songs, a heart rending, lilting, impassioned, classic love song, “More than a Favour” (“… More than a favour.. you would lay your life down..”), an uneasy reconciliation had been struck and the rest of the set was easier to listen, inspiring me to at last purchase Jeff’s CD.
Playing this at home, the more controlled environment released Jeff’s talent, demonstrating how this extraordinarily wrenching voice, at times swallowed and others semi falsetto with unusual, compelling, impassioned and imaginative instrumentation weaving beautiful harmonies, requires careful and sensitive handling, to let the music shine, stories of life told by a sympathetic and shy voice.
A caged Jeff flew free and at last I heard his song which I will now listen out for.
T-J & Murphy
See www.myspace.com/thomasjosephandmurphy for information about T-J & Murphy, their gigs, how to book them and so on and so forth.
Usually comprising the twin guitars and voices of Thomas-Joseph Mealey and David Murphy this duo captured my imagination, even before I first heard them, when the force of nature that is Thomas burst into my sadly demised venue Heart and Soul, a coiled spring, an explosion of emotion and opinion, bending and contorting a skinny wraithlike body, struggling to contain the passion and intensity within, despite skin tight jeans and rakish hat.
He blew out as he blew in, leaving us breathless in his wake, a young man on a mission to release his soul, entrapped by the practicalities of life but awoken to the call by I know not what cosmic event or lightening strike.
In his mission Thomas is joined by the other side of his coin, David Murphy, the two joined by an invisible umbilical, a mystical bond, interweaving intimately and effortlessly in melodic duet of voice, guitar, heart and mind.
Despite the familiarity of many hearings, Thomas’s extraordinarily expressive and lyrical voice, Dave’s emotively empathetic harmonies caressing the emotion, still rend my heart to shreds, a tender soul bare and bleeding before me, an age of experience, sorrow and understanding way beyond tender years, belies the tough exterior, revealing vulnerability with honesty hard to bear, portals wide open to reveal a landscape of the mind.
Whether moody and introspective or sunny and whimsical T-J & Murphy’s intensely melodic songs and their poignant , heartfelt lyrics each tell a tale, taking us on a journey though personal experience, stories of life, lives and loves, intense pictures which play in the mind like virtual reality, glittering guitars conjuring ghosts.
Looking back over the playlist for this occasion I note they sang thirteen songs, more than an hour which passed in what seemed a blink, immersed as I was in the worlds conjured by the music of T-J & Murphy, old and new, brought even more vividly to life by the intimate surroundings and intense performances of Thomas and Dave. Jeff at the helm of the mixer, intimately familiar with their songs and the musicianship of the duo, stripped away any barrier of amplification and the music flew free, enthralling, engaging and completely absorbing.
Of the six new songs performed that night, my two favourites which stick in my head, were “Island of the Saints” and “Joanna Love”, the images conjured by each etched in my mind.
Island of the Saints:
“….from the shoreline lies an Island, over the waves…. there’s a cross upon the hill peering through the misty blue and emerald Green.. directed like a star navigating those intended from afar….. your head upon my shoulder ….I feel alive for the first time in a long time….I see the light for the first time in a life time….”
Shimmering guitar captures shimmering sunlight on aqua water after stormy seas, an island, just emerging over the horizon, glimpsed from dark shores, an oasis where hope lives, in company of birdsong and tinkling pure water, bathing sorrow and hurt, emerging once more into light to feel the warmth of humanity.
A truly beautiful song, Thomas’s voice describing so poignantly the extreme emotion of rediscovering the beauty of life, Dave caressing and soothing with whispered harmonies, a magical song.
“….you walk in a crowded room he walks in right next to you….I see it in our eyes you’ll be lonely tonight…..he thinks he’s the heart and soul…everyone he thinks he owns…he’s losing you.. you’re slipping through..Joanna come …upstairs to the room above…we’ve got time the night is young…he won’t mind if he don’t know…you help ease my mind..I’ll make you feel warm inside…give you all the love you need,…I see you are all alone, guess it’s time I made my move…I hesitate there’s too much at stake…drinks go down … clowns come out..I laugh with you …we see right through…I turn around, Joanna, love is what we’ve found”
Gentle caressing guitar, sooths like a lover’s slow hands, lingering, giving unconditional love, healing the hurt of neglect, soft gentle vocals speak of wanting to know and understand, to mend what is broken, a blossoming of love and expression of such tenderness, it does inescapably draw tears.
Those two songs alone would be reason enough to buy their soon to be recorded new CD.
Of the other new songs, I have yet to get my head round “ Star Crossed Love”, yearning for lost love and “Fading Out”, about life and memories fading like pictures on a wall, both more narrative and meandering in nature, melancholic, wistful and somehow heavier, though within them both are extraordinarily beautiful melodic lines and interludes which I look forward to exploring. Unfortunately, YouTube clips of these songs are recorded in the harshly echoey surrounds of Studio 2, which make them difficult to listen to, so guess I will have to wait for their next live performances.
The remaining set comprised many of my favourites from T-J & Murphy’s “Weary Night’s” CD which remains permanently by my hi-fi, worn out and listless from constant playing.
Hearing them live made me realise what immediate performers this duo are, there are no effects, everything flows directly from their mind and souls to fingers and voice with no need for enhancements, they are complete.
Though practically every song from Weary Nights has become part of me, of the selection played tonight, my favourites must be “ A Stranger to Myself”, “Iron Man” and in particular “Old Dog”, each evoking such powerful emotion and empathy with our human condition that I cannot help but stop and listen every time I hear them. Striking a certain resonance within my psyche they remain lodged in my brain.
You will need to buy the CD to make up your own minds and to hear another favourite, not performed tonight, ”Free man walking” but briefly:
A Stranger to Myself
“… thought on my mind… I won’t get to sleep tonight… guess life, guess life changed me…..guess time, guess time aged me….I don’t , don’t know me no more….I’m a stranger to myself…..look in the mirror, I see somebody else…”
A hauntingly beautiful yet melancholic song gently, sorrowfully describing how life draws its own pattern on us, despite or in spite of where we might wish to travel.
“..the lines on his face mark his every fall from grace…everything he’s ever done wrong… his crooked nose misshapen by the blows, the blows he knows he deserves… there’s pain in those veins… I can see it in your eyes, it’s eating you inside, because the eyes don’t lie… window to the soul… iron man… hope you understand you drove me away.. words too proud to share… tears he should have cried back then… ”
Wistful strumming guitar, slide guitar of regret and the exceptionally expressive timbre of Thomas’s voice illustrate the heartbreak the lyrics describe, how pride can destroy and how some things can never be mended.
“… my boots and jeans are fading, my face looks like it’s weathered many a storm….miles they mount behind me…..days I thought would never end, just memories in my mind…..I know and I know and I know, I ain’t got much time…..it feels like I’m reaching, I’m reaching the end of the line….”
Movingly poignant , guitar and viola (or is it violin?) exquisitely describe life’s journey along the dusty road into sunset, mouth organ marking weary steps as time passes and everything moves towards its end.
I am glad some of my time on this mortal coil has been filled with the music of T-J & Murphy.
That’s it folks, now go and listen to them.
© August 2010 Chumki Banerjee
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