Have you ever had the feeling that a perfect moment could only be made more so if it had a soundtrack? From misty strolls down forgotten trails, to laughter-filled pubs bursting with dance and joy, to that moment when you look at someone and realize for the first time that you’ve fallen in love with them, The Tinker’s Dream provides a stellar musical landscape for thousands of those ephemeral moments, and so much more.
Chris Murphy’s ‘Connemara Ponies’ gallops to the warm smack of a bodhran drum-here played by Celtic Woman’s Andy Reilly while the flutes and violins echo the buzzing of bugs and birds in a long-ago dream of old Ireland. But while Uilleann pipes usher in the stirring ‘Union of the Seven Brothers’, marshalling an insistent rhythm that certainly pays homage to traditionalists like the Chieftains, elsewhere Murphy’s impressive ensemble suggests the Pogues’ more acoustic moments, and the roll-neck romance of Sixties folk-rockers like Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band. And while ‘Gibraltar 1988’ might signal a journey to points south, it’s a sea voyage to that mighty crag that only an Irishman (in Murphy’s case, Bronx Irish) could muster, pointing his violin bow toward dramatic waves of rolling acoustic guitar, droning double bass courtesy of the Waterboys’ Trevor Hutchinson and sea-worthy penny whistles. Displaying at turns a brooding gravitas, at others a free-flowing heartfulness, Murphy’s Tinker’s Dream is a myth in the making, an imaginary soundtrack as at ease in a Tolkien landscape as at a South Boston watering hole, or wherever Irish ears are smiling.
For 25 years, and with no sign of slowing, violinist Chris Murphy has made a living by writing, performing and recording original music. For Murphy, the path forward is charted by looking backward, to the troubadours and minstrels of ages past. Forget the exaggerated reports of the music industry’s demise. It’s only the record industry, a relative blip in the history of putting tones in sequence, that’s suffering. Music, and the opportunity to make a life’s work out of it, well, that’s not going anywhere. “In another era,” he says, “I would have played square dances, and loved it. I would have been a court musician in Versailles in the 17th Century, or a violinist in a circus orchestra.” For Chris Murphy, inspiration spans eras and aesthetics, but the fundamentals are the same.
Born into an Irish-Italian family near New York City, Murphy was surrounded by the disparate and eclectic sounds of his neighbours’ traditional music. “I heard and was influenced by everything – from Italian-mandolin music, to bluegrass and folk, to Latin music,” he says. Inevitably, he discovered rock ‘n’ roll, claiming still further influence from some of rock’s most adventurous and eclectic icons: Lou Reed and Ry Cooder, Bob Dylan and Richard Thompson. “My real hero,” he says, “was David Lindley. Hearing him play fiddle and lap steel with Jackson Browne – that kind of esoteric, enigmatic soloing over songs is originally what I loved.”
As he searches for new ways to communicate through music, fusing styles and techniques from across the globe – a unique fabric of world music, he calls it – Murphy finds his element on the stage, where spontaneity and improvisation reign. “To me, the music is liquid, and I’m looking to have some kind of experience.” he says. “I’ll twist and turn and hammer and mould and shape cut and paste the music to do that. We’ve never done a song the same way twice.” As ever, Murphy re-forges the past to make a new way.
Artist’s website: www.chrismurphymusic.com
‘Song For Che’ live: