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Murphy's Heart

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Album Review

Murphy's Heart, the eleventh studio offering from singer and songwriter Thea Gilmore, finds a balance between the extreme polish of 2008's Liejacker and the skeletal sound of 2006's Harpo's Ghost. Produced (again) by lead guitarist Nigel Stonier, Gilmore fills the songs on this 13-track set with the talents of 13 musicians, including horn and string players, percussionists, and keyboardists. The expanded cast reflects Gilmore's evolving songwriting and arranging skills; forms and textures have deepened and changed shapes, and the textures she and Stonier employ are more ambitious than anything she's previously attempted, but whether they touch on the perverse carnival soundscapes of Tom Waits (in "Jazz Hands") or are elegantly adorned ("Due South), they contain only what they need in order to project and illuminate her stiletto sharp — often mischievous — lyrics. The set opens with "This Town," introduced by a strutting Celtic blues guitar line that quickly becomes a shuffling, minor-key jazz swagger as Gilmore illustrates a physical place as femme fatale: "Hello my little train wreck, I am your worst fear/I'm a mortuary postcard, I'm a graveyard souvenir." On "Love's the Greatest Instrument of Rage," drums, dulcimers, and handclaps fuel Gilmore's spitfire delivery on what could be a drinking song, albeit one of indignation and regret: "So take this epitaph, take anything that's left/I don't want to be here come the day/I did my best you know, I tried to swim the tide/But I am just as guilty in my way...." On the lilting acoustic waltz "Automatic Blue," her protagonist observes the eternal paradox of romance: "Love is either wild frontiers, or automatic blue." "Mexico" is as lonely as its title, adorned by nylon string guitars, viola, and cello, while the album's closer "Wondrous Thing," with its Latin percussion and sparse electric six-string, underscores an early rock melody and a lyric worthy of Doc Pomus: "The moment you came/The stars didn't sing your name/And the heavens didn't shed your skin/Smallest of things/Bravest of offerings/The way that love begins." With the lithe, languid flügelhorn in the backdrop, the song enters the realm of dreams. Murphy's Heart is the work of a seasoned veteran at lofty creative peak in her craft.

Customer Reviews

An elegant triumph - one to savour

Thea Gilmore has built a career of quietly powerful acoustic music, and 'Murphy's Heart' is perhaps the most elegant and majestic of her records to date. It follows on from the more stripped-down beautiful feel of 'Strange Communion' but also injects some welcome passion and energy in the form of a brass section on a few tracks, and some exotic percussion. Thea's voice is rich and expressive, honeyed in tone and wide in range, and her lyrics are intelligent and literate with some impressive wordplay and evocative imagery. The songs are romantic and melodic, and range in mood and atmosphere from ghostly ("Coffee and Roses") to impassioned ("Love's the Greatest Instrument of Rage") to playful (the carnival-style "Jazz Hands") to mournful ("Due South.") The gorgeous "How The Love Gets In," pure "God's Got Nothing On You," and sassy opener "This Town" are other highlights. It's hard to categorise but it's authentic and beautiful and elegant throughout and could well be Gilmore's finest record to date - one to savour.

Just Gorgeous !

Truly beautifull, check out 'Automatic Blue' (hints of 'Cowboy Junkies') with heart tugging fiddle, also 'Wondrous Thing' just sublime !! Nice one Thea !!

Keeps getting better

Now a mature artist, this album is quite possibly her best yet - and she has been setting a great standard over the last few years. The quality of the songwriting is truly impressive, and the vocals and arrangements are as good it gets. Great album.


Born: 1979 in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter Thea Gilmore was born to Irish parents in 1979. While coming of age in North Aston, Oxfordshire in England, she ignored the new wave reign of the '80s and instead began to seek out her parents' Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell albums. Later, she found comfort in the work of Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and the Replacements, naturally absorbing the intelligence behind each artist's work. Gilmore began writing poetry and short stories to amuse herself amidst her conventional surroundings,...
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