Black Mountains Revisited
CD only BEJOCD-26
Fernhill vocalist Julie Murphy has just released an outstanding solo album with accompaniment by some of the finest acoustic players of the present-day. Featured artists include slide guitar wizard Martin Simpson and the legendary double bassist Danny Thompson as well as hurdy-gurdy maestro Nigel Eaton, Julie's partner in the innovative duo Whirling Pope Joan. Black Mountains Revisited (BEJOCD-26) was released on 7 June 1999
The album is available at a UK rate of £12.99 incl. p&p (add £1 overseas). Mail order by cheque or credit card in the usual way. Cheques to 'Honest Jo Music'.
Note also: Julie is cover feature artist in the June 1999 issue of Folk Roots magazine.
What the critics
'Excellent solo album. She is possessed of a wonderfully warm and emotive voice'
MOJO - FOLK
ALBUM OF THE MONTH! (September 1999)
'It's been an unlikely journey for Murphy. From Essex to Wales via Brittany, Swaziland, Pakistan, Kenya and heaven knows where else, she now reinvents the tradition with the ardour and wholly original sense of drama of someone with the natural instinct for the uninhibited passion of folk song and no inkling of the unwritten rules that habitually curse its performance. She tackles well known traditional songs and themes like Polly Vaughan, Black is the Colour, Sylvie and The Farmer and turns them inside out, modernising lyrics, adding tunes, shifting the meaning, offering strange arrangements, deep atmospherics. It's a dark, mysterious album that doesn't make light listening, but a distinguished supporting cast, including Danny Thompson on double bass, Nigel Eaton on hurdy gurdy, Stacy Blythe on piano and Martin Simpson on guitar draw you in when the going gets tough.'
'A work of great
power, ambition and accomplishment'
Songlines (Editor's choice of top ten new releases)
will figure strongly in 1999's "Best of" polls'
Ken Hunt, Classic CD
I think, is a real find. Where's she been all these years? She is now on
my list as one of the top female voices.'
Rod Harrington, BBC Somerset Sound
FolkScene/KPFK Radio Los Angeles
label unafraid to take risks, Beautiful Jo, in addition to providing a
home for a series of esoteric and eccentric releases, is also responsible
for some of contemporary folk's finer moments... With a grounding in traditional
song, Julie Murphy clearly knows and understands her chosen material well,
every word and subtle nuance approached with the authority of a singer
of rare quality... Murphy has the ideal canvas on which to create her vocal
magic, which is best expressed on a poignant and especially evoicative
"Polly Vaughan" which should see her proclaimed as among the top female
vocalists on the contemporary scene.'
Steve Caseman, Rock 'n' Reel
'It's a sign
of the respect that Julie commands that she can attract session musicians
of the calibre of Martin Simpson, Danny Thompson and Dylan Fowler. She
works comfortably and easily with all her collaborators, drawing the best
from them and soaring on the uplift she gets from their input.'
Mick Tems, Taplas
Folk Roots review
'The voice of Fernhill has long proved herself rather more than a Mighty Voice. Her voice is indeed mighty, but it's her determination to throw herself ever more deeply into other cultures, styles, traditions and influences - from those mindboggling rhythmic experiments with Whirling Pope Joan to fullblooded explorations of African, Breton and Welsh musics -that mark her out as one of our most fascinating thinkers too.
This, her first solo album, is typically challenging and while it borrows and alludes to the deepest folk traditions of these islands, the references and points of contact are so left-field it's unlike any other album you'll hear this year. Take as an example track 6, Sylvie. Using the same tune Dylan purloined so effectively for Masters Of War, she adapts the old Sovay story of the female highwayman into a modern context with skill and adventure; the song starts unaccompanied, is suddenly invested with tension by Nigel Eaton's hurdy gurdy and unexpectedly reverts to the Welsh language at a vital point in the story.
Such a natural sense of drama is infectious and it's this edge of surprise that makes it so constantly invigorating. She repeatedly draws drama and emotion from unlikely corners, with seemingly bizarre mixes of instruments and styles. Yet none of the tinkering is gratuitous and for all the boldness and liberties she takes with the arrangements it still emerges as a very pure sounding album. Much of this may be down to the chemistry involved with her intriguing selection of collaborators. Apart from the inestimable Nigel Eaton, pianist Stacy Blythe provides a heartbreaking air of melancholia to The Farmer, a passionate and pointed variant on Farmer Is The Man, which Ry Cooder among others has performed memorably in the past. Martin Simpson pops up with his distinctive slide guitar on Polly Vaughan and Danny Thompson's bass stars on Janet Dub*'s disquieting, but perhaps over long jazz-inflected As In The Market (Carmarthen) 1982, which even dips into the Palestinian tradition at one point. Lynne Denman duets mystically with her on the seriously strange Two Sisters, a horror movie set to a church organ arrangement while the Appalachian tradition is explored on a harsh unaccompanied duet with Neil Wollard, Are You Ready?.
The fingers of Martin Simpson are again prominent on a beautifully relaxed treatment of Black Is The Colour, perhaps the straightest thing on the album, and Ceri Rhys Matthews' cittern provides a likeably lively backdrop to Bethel, the one Welsh language song on the album, with Murphy's singing interspersed with the sound of her own children's voices.
A traditional album that takes the music to some place else and it's unusually arresting for that reason.'
Colin Irwin, Folk Roots
'Julie Murphy's first solo album is
full of surprises. Her incredible voice weaves a thread through lyrics
that are themselves a subtle blend of traditional line and interpretation...
Almost all the songs have elements of tragedy - at least four murders -
that set the atmosphere, but with sparks of optimism and hope. Lovely children's
voices in Welsh on 'Bethel'. Really this is the best album I've heard this
Marilyn Mills, Shire Folk
'We know Julie Murphy from her beautiful
vocals with the Welsh band Fernhill and from different Welsh compilations.
Even when she sings in a group one hears and feels her strong independent
Roger Nupie, International Dr Nina Simone Society
'Julie Murphy's ascent in the world
of folk music appears gradual and yet inexorable. Not for her the meteoric
rise and subsequent transient fame, but rather a steady, step-by-step climb
to the top. She first came to my attention via Whirling Pope Joan and now
fronts the excellent Fernhill, with whom she has released a couple of albums.
These have helped her build a solid reputation in clubs and festivals throughout
Europe. This is Julie's first solo album...most of the songs are firmly
based in the tradition with occasional tweaks whenever Julie thought it
necessary. Her love of Wales and the Welsh language comes to the fore on
several songs, notably on Bethel which is sung entirely and convincingly
in Welsh (she is from Essex). I particularly liked Polly Vaughan with nice
slide guitar from
Mr Simpson as well as Oxford City
where she is joined by Neil Woollard on vocal harmonies. A fine album from
a fine singer whose musical mileage thankfully still has a long way to
Folk on Tap
'A supremely soulful singer'
Sing Out! (USA)
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