Tag Archives: recording

Michael Cullen Murphy – Singer Songwriter


An introduction of sorts..

So, birth is a pretty good place to start and the place where I was born, Nashville Tenn. a good place to start songwriting.

I was born to a musically inclined father who had left England in the early 60s to pursue a love of American traditional music. He settled in Nashville’s burbs and had two children with an Alabamian Southern Belle. As a family we mixed with interesting people and I can recall Bill Keith (Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys) and Jim Rooney turning up at our front door when they were on a black and white T.V. we were watching at exactly the same time. That’s when I realised something interesting was going on. It continued to… and there is standard 8 Kodachrome footage of me playing harp (at 3) with Peter Rowan a family friend to prove it. You get the picture.

Anyway, that was then and this is now.

FullSizeRender 5We moved to the UK in ’76, I was almost 10. At about 14 I bought an electric guitar, played it without an amp for a year, finally afforded the amp and then annoyed the shit out of everyone with it, (the Police even came around with complaints), and I continue to, sort of.
It worked like this, as soon as I had the guitar I had a mic, and a knackered old NAD tape deck with a mic input and I started recording my ‘song-writing’ talents. In the 36 years since I assure you, I have improved somewhat. Well a bit.

Actually, this is still then.. I’ll get to now, in a bit.

R-9211750-1476735281-3058.jpegI formed the band the Purple Frisbees in the late 80s / early 90s with brother Chris and friend Harv Malthouse and wrote the songs, stamped my foot petulantly at rehearsals and over time developed a band that unknown to me had a reputation hundreds of miles further out than we ever played. We released a tape cassette and cd of awful music, that Des Day recorded and people loved and still love to this day. Then I folded the band. Then I wrote songs and recorded instrumental music in a small home studio. Released 3 or 4 playful albums only to local support and friends, all the time working, all the time being the best songwriter in the world, but only really, truth be told, in my own head and own bedroom. Then I got married, then I didn’t do that sort of thing anymore. Then my Dad passed away and the marriage broke down. Then I had something to write about again.

Then is now Now.

So, I started again, writing because I had to, needed to, really trying to write, working on it, trying as hard as I could, or working on it as time allowed, to put something down that was a step above what I had put together before, .. you know and people had always said I was good, you know, admired the band, been complimentary, you get the picture.

IMG_4555

I like to think my music is personal and original, but I do have particular (and peculiar)  influences that affect the way I write and play and record, Nick Drake, Roy Harper, Fairport Convention, Karen Dalton, Daniel Romano, Bonnie Prince Billy, John Martyn, The Band, Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller, Sandy Denny, The Handsome Family, Gothic Americana, Folk Horror, murder ballads, early flat picking styles, Folk Psych, Rockabilly, Leadbelly, George Jones, Ron Sexsmith, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Percy Sledge, Big Joe Turner, there is a long list. It’s my opinion that if you don’t listen to lots of music, you probably aren’t going to write very well, you’ve got to love others, and their music.

But . . .  Seriously.

The moment I took it seriously was when family friend Gabe Kelly had a London dateIMG_4557 cancelled on his UK tour and came to visit my Mum, I was staying there after the messy divorce and played him rough demos of the tunes I’d been toying with, he told me to write, ‘get on with your writing’, ‘you can write’; and when a songwriter who makes his living from doing that tells you to take your work seriously, . .  you do.

Martin-Simpson-by-Elly-Lucas-sml_web-billboard-2000x1125Then . .

Martin Simpson the Folk singer songwriter and world renowned acoustic and slide guitarist came to stay overnight while on a local tour. He and his tour manager Terry almost always did when they were in the area, even after my Dad, who made Banjos for Martin, died, he has kept in touch with my Mum, which is so lovely. I was there still leeching off of my lovely Mother after parting from family ways.

I was downstairs the morning after Martin’s gig with my son, playing around on my guitar. I heard Martin stirring, footsteps on the creaking stairs, I was playing a tune I’d written, shit I thought, fucking Martin Simpson is listening to me play one of my songs. (And I didn’t know at the time he’d won loads of, including BBC R2 songwriter of the year,(twice!) awards and even teaches songwriting at residential courses). So, it’s like this. I can tell that now he’s standing right behind me, I stumble to some sort of embarrassed finish and Martin says ‘That’s a fucking hit song’ and asked for the lyrics. We talked, and he too said, ‘write!, write!, you’re good’; and when a second songwriter who makes his living from doing that tells you to take your work seriously, . .  you do. And you get writing.

Later I played my songs to one of my musical friends of long ago, Sadie Jemmett who also makes her way through life via musical steam.. and she said, ‘you were always good, I don’t say this often to many people, but your songs are really good’. That’s good enough for me. It’s all well and good your Mum and Granny telling you you’re good lookin’ (or that your songs are good) but a stranger, or a professional, well that’s Encouragement Gold my friends, ‘Encouragement Gold’.

So I write and continue to. Actually, know what, I always have, and always will, whether it’s a mic plugged into some shitty NAD tape deck or the multitrack in the box productions I’m into now, where other people are getting involved with the project.

And now recording has improved over the NAD tape deck or Tascam Portastudio.

IMG_4554So, I’ve always loved recording and production almost as much as I love the song-writing, and so a few years ago with some extra ££s I bought the iMac I’d always wanted and the ‘in the box’ software I needed, the best A to D conversion I could, some monitors, and Neumann mics (a recording can never get better than it’s microphones). I’ve been recording what is at the moment, nothing more than a vanity project, I’ve got loads of possible names for the Lp (and yes it will be issued on vinyl), you’ll have to wait and see what I call it. I get no time at all to do it, struggle against all odds to get as far as I have, and I still seem to be writing songs for it. I have to create, leave something significant behind me, share my thoughts on what it is to exist on this spinning rock with you all.

The quality of production I have created is quite amazing given that all of it is created in my little living room, and the advice of people like friend and Soundman Des Day has been invaluable over all the long years of doing this.

IMG_4556While I’m working on it I publish the demos, ideas, and songs that are works in progress in shitty MP3 format via Reverbnation, an artist platform, and the links to that stuff are below. Don’t judge the final product, these are just the sketches. Please check them and the YouTube videos out. Christ only knows when I’ll finish the project, so much to do on it, I’m 50 fucking 2 and there isn’t that much time left for this sort of thing, but you know, and I am my harshest critic, there are one or two really good songs on this thing, this Lp. This thing to come, in process, like life, is yet to come. (P.s. there more stuff below this pinned post)

I hope you are there to hear it.

And when it’s finished I hope you like it.

Murphy © 2019

 

 

Folkways Records: Moses Asch and His Encyclopedia of Sound – A review


Folkways Records: Moses Asch and Tony Olmsted’s yawningly un-brilliant book

It’s hard being honest, risky, troubling and you can’t help but be disappointed with yourself for being such a negative old bitch, but there you have it, there’s nothing quite like the ‘truth’ subjective though it will I hope be.

If you are interested in Folk music, then Folkways records is a name you will know and be interested to know more of. With its distinctive unforgiving Lps, bound beautifully, with odd yet engaging cover art, illustrating the musical brilliance of everything and everyone from Native American Indians to New York Jews and Woody Guthrie to Bahamian Gospel groups. All the brainchild of Moses Asch; a name as much part of the American Folk revival as Lomax or Dylan.

It follows that if you are interested in Folkways then you will be interested in an account of the man who created the label and the label itself. It follows that you might buy this book in that case. Unfortunately it doesn’t follow that you will get enjoyment, knowledge, or anything remotely at all worthwhile from this missed opportunity of a book.

Frankly it reads like a poorly proof read thesis by a second-rate musicology student.

Tony Olmsted with access to the Smithsonian’s archive on Asch has done little more than present the end of year accounts of Folkways, there are few stories to enjoy, little of interest to anyone but a bank manager. Someone wishing to go back in time having learnt from Asch’s business mistakes might use the information contained to start a Folk label in 40s and 50s New York; but seriously this book would be of more use to an accountant than someone interested in music.

Olmsted hasn’t got a clue how to write, how to engage or how to tell a story. I expect that 10 or so years after writing this book he’s changed professions and is now a health and safety officer with ‘special understanding of the risk of paper cuts in the workplace’ and has published an in-depth study of this risk and it’s ‘relationship to the stationary cupboard of mid-west America’.

Missed Opportunity

There are 8 typographical errors before the 40th page, and that will no doubt be as many as I find in this book, because it’s going to be where I stop reading it.

Yawn . . . .

Folkways Records: Moses Asch and His Encyclopedia of Sound

J.D McPherson – Signs and Signifiers + HiStyle Records Chicago


J.D McPherson – Signs and Signifiers

Rarely do I get the chance to listen to any music that isn’t in some way related to my main love, the music of Jamaica and the Caribbean, however, recently I have mostly been listening to this release. I all too infrequently spend my moolah on anything but the sweet sounds of Jamdown and yet I’d buy another copy of this cd if I had a good enough reason.

Read the Epilogue at the base of this page…!

Read on, to find out why…

Corkey is a Cat! – A short while ago a customer in the building supplies depot where I work, one Andy Corke, of Corke and Bellchamber general builders in the area of Crowborough, East Sussex, England and I engaged in another musical conversation. He, Corkey that is, what had recently been to Spain for a Rockabilly festival suggested that I check out one Bass player Jimmy Sutton, and one J.D. McPherson, Vocalist, Song Writer and Guitarist. The resultant You Tube session started early in the evening and lasted until a very late night. By the end of it I certainly knew who Jimmy Sutton was, had enjoyed the vocal stylings of J.D McPherson and I jess couldn’t get enough., yassuh, I wuz hooked!

How to honour the past, while creating newness of freshness like a blossom on the breeze….?

Histyle records, the label that produced this supreme long player prides itself in recording and releasing ‘exceptional roots music’. And with Jimmy Sutton at the helm, they will. No doubt about it.

He has equipped his Chicago based Histyle studio in state of the art Equipment. Equipment that was state of the art in the late 1950s and early 1960s that is. The studio is designed no doubt to give his recordings a sound unlikely to be equalled now, and perhaps even then. A pity for him in a way that his Long Players and other exquisite recordings have to be tuned into binary digits and pressed into little disgusting plastic coasters called cds (Yuk!). Though I understand one or two have made it to 45rpm records.

Indulgence,… no way jay

All this might to some seem like staring at your navel on a Saturday night with a bottle of weak beer and a bad show on the TV . . . but, what these guys have managed to do is create music that doesn’t suffer from an over indulgence in the past, but instead offers, not necessarily a new twist to 50s Rock n’ Roll, but something, an unknown something, something forward-looking, fresh, knowingly unheard and yet… as if you could have heard these tunes, countless times, as classics of an era long gone.

J.D.

He can sing this boy, variously sounding like an Eddie Cochran on tunes like ‘Dimes For Nickels’; and then riffing like Chuck Berry, or sounding on ‘Your love’ (All That I am Missing’) as if he might have been displaced from the 5 Royales for the crime of over exuberance, and with the merest hint of Jackie Wilson creeping in to his vocal ‘stylings’, he is multi gifted. Classic lines include from the now famous ‘North Side Girl’ – ‘I’ve got some good talk, but not enough game’ and from ‘I Can’t Complain’ – ‘I can’t complain, I stay pretty dry in the rain’. Going on to treat us to a guitar solo in the aforesaid ‘I Can’t Complain’ that he surely took a bottle of vintage 1950s drugstore pep pills in order to create? Ripping good stuff . . .

No amount of explanation can do what your ears can.

Just go get it Houndog, I’m listening to it while writing this, thinking, hell I could tell my readers who this might sound like, that it has a fine mix of rockin’ stormers, creepy ballads, and a strong hint of Tom Waits on a tune like ‘Country Boy’. There are Blues honourings, fabulously sensitive mixing, everything where it should be at the size it was always meant to be. A little distortion on the high end of the dry vocal, mixed down the middle to give the overall production that Mono ‘feel’ while at the same time keeping the spacewidth of the Stereo we associate later audio output with … and…. such sweetly recorded Brass, and Strings and what supreme arranging on the ‘extras’ and, and, and the list does and could go on.

Cosmic Daddy-O

And at the centre of it, circling around the gravitational pull of the black hole you thought was full up with enough Rockin’ good tunes to last us all another lifetime of listening, a whole heap of tunes that sound like they’ve been here forever, songs born with the universe, and every one of them, well almost every single one, a ‘Killer Diller’.

Web sites to check are:

http://www.histylerecords.com/

http://www.jdmcpherson.com/

Epilogue

So about a week after writing this blog article and sending a link to Jimmy Sutton, I get a record in the post, at first I think it’s just some eBay thing I’ve bought from the States turning up and then, I realise that Jimmy’s sent me the Lp (on vinyl) probably having read my comments here about recording to vinyl etc, as a lovely gift… what a great addition it is to not only be listening to some truly great music, but that the people behind it are so nice and friendly….. I’m still listening to the Lp a month after getting it, on frequent rotation. I can only say, you really need a copy, go and get one!

Lord Laro – The Rastafarian Love


Early tune mentions Rastafari

On Jamaica's Ken Khouri produced Kalypso label

Found this one recently, not in great condition, but plays okay and is interesting in that it features some nice Rasta style drumming and a strong Rastafarian theme throughout.

Here’s a link to the tune – Listen Here

Laro is a Trinidadian Calypsonian who recorded a number of tunes in Jamaica almost exclusively for the Khouri family at Federal. He is perhaps most well known to collectors for his Jamaican Referendum Calypso of 1961, this appears both on the Jamaican and Uk Kalypso labels. Laro still performs and is more widely associated with Trini Calypso, than Mento flavoured Jamaican Calypso.

Mouth to Mouth – Gallery of Dolls


All Mouth and No Trousers

The following is just my opinion, this is only one persons opinion, this opinion does not impinge on you having an opinion that differs. (Please read comments).

This record was found in a charity shop a few weeks ago, I bought it because it looked interesting. It looked interesting but it didn’t sound interesting; in fact it sounded derivative and flabby. So I sold it.

In my opinion it’s got to be the best example I’ve ever seen of record collector’s self inflating hype. The only thing anyone seems to know about it, was that some guy, who many thought an authority, once said in a book everyone is meant to have read that it was rare and exceptionally sought after. I say make up your own minds about music and it’s intrinsic worth, or you may end up with a record collection full of expensive records that you never want to listen to. I have a few like that, in fact I have a few hundred like that… in fact I have a copy of something by Musical Youth somewhere, did you know that Jackie Mittoo was involved with that band… blah blah bla bl bl bla blahhh…

The buyer asked me if I had any further information about it, I didn’t, only what I had listed in my eBay description from the site Worthless Trash.

So to surmise –  the guy buying it didn’t really know what it was, the guy on the informative website didn’t really know what it was, I didn’t know what it was and I’m guessing that the guy who recommended it in his book hadn’t heard it, or he wouldn’t have recommended it.

To add – Now that this post has been up for a couple of days and garnered some interest, one ex member of the band has been in touch (see comments below) and it appears that I have upset people with my own opinions and frankness, I have now toned down the above article, removed the MP3 and wish to make certain that people know that I’m only expressing my personal opinion. It is interesting to me that I heard the tunes with open ears and with no awareness of their near mythic reputation, if you’ve never heard of, or listened to the tunes before I’d like to hear your opinion.

Subsequently, the MP3s were added to the blog on the Worthless Trash site and it seems that more than a few of the comments there currently support my opinion that the tune isn’t really very exciting.

Reference Discs / Dubplates, One Offs


Limited to a Brighton production company.

Many moons ago, when the only people to have recording equipment were studios, end of the pier machine operators and definately not the general public, the only way to get a recording of yourself was to pay for an acetate to be created from your live performance. These are two pictures of the labels from just such acetates. The extra hole on the second picture was for locating the record when cutting it, preventing slippage. The hole on the other, is obsucred by the label, which has been placed over it.

Duo disc, apparently a well known supplier of acetates and equipment.

Musical Traces


MUSICAL TRACE ELEMENTS

Introduction ~ The idea is quite simple.

I read a book by Will Hodgkinson that outlined a trip to collect music around the British Isles, in true Cecil Sharpe manner. With modern digital recorder in hand, off he went, but I think he missed a trick or two and yet, I don’t have the time necessary to prove my theory. I can’t get in the car and just go prove that I could do it better, so I gave up on the idea of being the next best thing to Alan or John Lomax, or Moses Asch.

Then I asked myself the questions…. how would I have to do this in order to make it work? I’d need to do it from my virtual armchair. Could you be a recorder of Folk music, or rather people’s music from all over the world without leaving the confines of your own living room? Then it struck me. What if I started with someone I knew, asked them to record a song, or give me something they’d already done, with a little blurb about who they were and what they’d done, and then send me to the next link in the chain by helping me to contact, or contacting on my behalf someone else who made music.With the network provided by the Worldwide Web this would be possible for the first time since people began to make music on horses jawbones… it seemed like an interesting idea to me.

This process it occurred to me would lead me to somewhere I could never expect, to places I wouldn’t take myself. If I offered the blurb and the music (as a download) then others could follow the ‘Musical Traces’, hence the name of this blog.

So – That’s what I’m going to do, collect music without ever leaving my house… without wearing out shoe leather I’ll be a modern day Alan Lomax. No I won’t be documenting, no I won’t be transcribing, like he did, or archiving, or leaving music to dry up in a museum vault, but I will be collecting, and hopefully you will be hearing. It will all be Folk music that you hear, because whatever the music, it will be music of the people, made by the people.

The podcast/download space for the tunes is here – http://musical-traces.podOmatic.com and the RSS feed is here – http://musical-traces.podOmatic.com/rss2.xml

Mike Murphy January 2010