Acoustic Singer/Songwriter Todd Murray is special. Not the “I eat paste” special – quite the opposite actually – his is the first local, acoustic music I’ve heard that melds folk and blues stylings successfully. It’s like a fried Twinkie – it really shouldn’t work together, but it does – and it is tasty. This man knows his way around an acoustic guitar, whether playing lead or rhythm he does so tastefully and in full control. Todd knows each songs destiny and puts his best foot forward presenting them on his recently recorded effort, Headlight Sonata. Although some might groan at the thought of some ass clown playing an acoustic guitar around a campfire (again, sigh) – Todd’s music moves, dynamically through different strum patterns, hard and soft exchanges, and some KT Tunstall-like chicka chicka’s to infuse what is normally left for the coffee house set with a new and unique sounding vibe. When you think of blues/folk you have to conjure bits and pieces of rock and roll history; ie, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Who – these bands knew how to steal successfully. They took music; new to the mainstream audience, and put into words and melodies that we could all understand. It takes a special ear and a yearning for what is inside one’s soul to connect with the blues and it takes a wordsmith with an observant mind to put honesty and articulation on top of these attributes. Now I’m not saying that Toddy Murray is the next Jimmy Page – actually far from it – but what I am saying is that Sincerely, Iris has found a way to create music that bites on these predecessors without sounding whiney or too over the top (see Greg Reed) – or being too steeped in traditional acoustic guitar playing. His album is missing drums – and that can make or break my comparisons really easily – but for what it is, it accomplishes everything the music is going for. He’s not afraid to get a little experimental – check out the bridge on “Diggin” – almost sounds like a guest spot from Andrew Bird. Also be sure to listen to the haunting, minor key song, “Don’t Let the Man Get You Down” – the production value here really surprised me, what sounded like a crappily recorded piano eventually attached to my mind like a Zebra Mussel and in the end had me saying ‘wow, that actually fit really good.’ All in all, with Sincerely, Iris, Todd Murray has tapped into a nice niche, the only question is, can he push it further? Is he strictly an acoustic guitar guy, or is this album simply an introduction to a stronger more powerful artist, backed by a real band and plugged in? I’m hoping for the latter.
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