Chris Murphy,
(Kufala, 2004)

As an avid fan of violin/fiddle music, I eagerly started listening to Noir by violinist/composer Chris Murphy. I knew he had to meet my high expectations to get a decent review. My favorite violinist is Hugh Marsh (who excels when performing with Loreena McKennitt, but also has great solo work) followed closely by Karen Briggs when she works with Yanni. For years, I have listened to these two violinists and others. After listening to Noir as well as another Murphy CD, Juniper, I might just start talking about the three violinists to whom I listen on a regular basis.

Noir contains 12 tracks, all composed and performed by Chris. They vary in style from tango (as showcased on the appropriately titled track, "Tango") to rag ("Filbert's Rag") to Cajun, rock, bluegrass, ambient and beyond. He plays his violin through a guitar amp, which gives him a much wider range than traditional acoustic-based performing.

The violin, for me, is an instrument that easily tugs on one's emotions. One of the pieces on this CD that sounds very melancholy to me is "Coffee and Candles." I'm not sure what emotions, if any, Chris is trying to invoke. He keeps the tempo by plucking the strings. Through the use of loops, he accompanies himself with a sad meandering that does not make me think of coffee at all. I think of lost love or missing a loved one. I get this yearning feeling for something from my past. (Obviously there is a disconnect between what he is playing and what I'm hearing. But it works for me!)

Another great tune is "Time is an Ocean." Again, through the use of electronics, Chris sounds like several musicians playing together. There is a constant strumming that keeps time on this track. I could understand if some listeners thought this offering plodded along, but for me, the melody (which hangs in the background) subtly guides the listener in various directions while the repetition keeps them on track. The music is very hypnotic. You might need to give it a listen to understand what I'm talking about.

Chris leaves the electronics behind on "Moonlight Waltz." This track sounds like it was performed live in an echoing concert hall. My first thought on hearing this traditional-sounding waltz was that I had heard it before, but couldn't quite place it. However, the CD liner notes clearly state Chris composed all the music here. Interesting!

If you are a serious connoisseur of violin/fiddle music, then my advice is to check out this CD. If you are a purist, you probably will not appreciate Chris's more modern musical style since he relies heavily on electrical help. I, however, have found myself listening to this CD quite a bit. While Chris Murphy is currently on the bottom of my list of three favorite violinists, I have several more CDs of his to acquire. Karen better watch out or she's going to slip a rung!

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 20 August 2005

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