Shane Murphy at Musica

I generally hate to use comparisons when describing musicians. That said, it is hard not to mention that Shane Murphy , who I saw perform at Musica in Hudson, NY on Saturday evening, has a voice reminiscent of early Tim Buckley. Everyone seems to think and say so of Shane but, although I mean it as a compliment to him, to simply leave it at that would be wrong. Yes, he sounds remarkably like Tim Buckley at times, but he is no imitator.

By day Shane works at a poetry press; fitting, as he’s quite a poet himself. He writes lyrics with a captivating pen, and his music is sweet and simple, reflecting a lost time in the world. It was a small crowd at Musica, which is a music store that hosts concerts after hours nearly every week. The place is neat (it’s not everywhere you can find ukuleles, African drums, classical sheet music, and a book of the music from “The Pirates of Penzance”) and is rapidly becoming one of my favorite locations to see shows. The lights were turned down, and Shane kicked off his shoes — standing on the little rug that served as the stage in his socks — making the show feel like a secret gathering, which was nice. He sang a song he wrote and I now view as an anthem called “Mother Earth,” which he preceded by saying, “This next song makes me sound like an environmental activist, which I’m not, but I support the cause.” Although Shane did sound like Tim Buckley during a lot of the songs he performed, it was the most evident when he sang a song Buckley actually recorded (which was originally written and performed by Fred Neil), called “Dolphins.” Shane himself has written an impressive number of originals, and one such song called “The Lover’s Lament” was particularly lovely — his voice sounded seraphic (perhaps due to his choir involvement in college). After a short break to refill his glass of water, Shane returned to the rug — er, stage — to play some more songs, the first being the nicely composed “Sunset Over Kingston” (as in Kingston, Ontario). Another interesting song lyrically was “Twilight and Dawn“, with the chorus of “Your eyes are twilight and dawn, surely deep within there’s nothing but song…”  But perhaps the most beautifully written song of the evening was “Hallways,” and I’d like to end this by leaving you the lyrics to it:

We pass in hallways, lock eyes, then look away–a little steady, senseless
wonderment I heed: enough to hear my heartstrings breaking one by one, from a
window high above your broken city.

Well, I’ve been sorting hours like pills and choking daily the time down.
To what end, to what end? To see you again in the morning?

I’ve lit two candles in your eyes;
can’t you see the flame consuming every cloud above your city?

There are only stars, and I am patterned, I am small.
The notes I know to hum don’t vibrate any spheres.

Well, I’ve been scaling all these hills toward you, and sliding
headfirst down. But I don’t bend and I don’t break.

You’re always sunlight in the morning.

Is there more to fear than time?

Is it comforting to fear we’ll always hide our love at the wrong time?

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