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CD Review: Portrait of a Demolition 

Shane Murphy

“Portrait of a Demolition,” 2011, WildCat Records.

“Portrait of a Demolition,” 2011, WildCat Records.

Contradictions offer opportunities for both confusion and illumination. In the hands of a skilled artist like Poughkeepsie’s Shane Murphy, the contradiction is fuel, and with the aid of producer Joe Phillips and a passel of instruments he plays himself, Murphy has concocted his third CD, Portrait of a Demolition. Among the 12 tunes you will find an infidel praising faith (“Bathtub Mary”), beautiful words exposing the emptiness of language (“Rosemary for Remembrance”), a very disturbed-sounding narrator musing on domesticity (“A Mind at Rest”), and a tortured soul counseling a listener not to be a tortured soul (“Be Not a Tortured Soul”). The material is consistently compelling, though, due to Murphy’s bracing outsider confidence, a necessary ingredient if one is to create successful “musicalizations” of poems by W. B. Yeats (“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”) and e. e. cummings (“I am a little church”).

Indeed, “shrinking violet” does not come to mind when one hears Murphy sing; his swooning, darkly expressive Tim Buckley-Scott Walker voice is surprising, here operatic, there a seething whisper, but always demanding attention. Since his last outing, Murphy has plugged in and gone more electric, and many of the tunes motor along on sparkly, melodic bass runs, swathes of distorted guitar texture, and an acoustic on which Murphy has the balls to put a very ’80s-sounding chorus. Such lyrical prowess (from “Recovery”: “small fingers in passing go swimming in a birdbath of quicklime”) and vocal chops, however, grant license to almost anything. Shanejosephmurphy.com.

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