Chris Murphy might be the most talented violin player you’ve never heard of. Besides being kicked out of the Boy Scouts at 16 for smoking pot, this New England Conservatory graduate has been writing and composing material of his own for over 15 years. Mr. Murphy has just released five, yes five, solo albums of different material, ranging from jazz to Celtic, electronica to bluegrass, and beyond. I recently checked out Salton Songs – Electronic Violin Music and found mixed results.

This album is very surprising to say the least - not at all what you would expect from a dude who plays the violin. It relies on standard electronic drumbeats throughout, which becomes very repetitive, but his use of percussion is refreshing. However, what keeps the listener’s attention throughout is Mr. Murphy’s magic violin. I say “magic” because of the number of different and crazy sounds that are emitted from that thing. Chris disguises his violin so well that if the album didn’t have the title “Electronic Violin Music,” I would’ve completely forgot there was a violin. At one point I though I was listening to John McLaughlin wail with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. At other times his violin almost seems to emulate a Rhodes piano, and yet at other times he sounds like a classical Indian guitarist. This is compelling music. It’s not the same old boring crap you’re going to hear on the radio, and it’s not some guy soloing on his guitar for 15 minutes either. By incorporating elements of any and every musical genre you can think of, Chris has truly created his own genre. There aren’t many, if any, other violinists out there who do what Chris does, and he does it well. This man is a very accomplished musician, and it clearly shows. He also keeps it fun by experimenting with lots of cool toys, such as loop machines and many different effects pedals.

Though for the most part Murphy keeps this album interesting, I’m not sure what kind of audience he will be able to attract with this music. A concept album for sure, it’s in-between electronica and for lack of a better term, country music. Are there really people out there that want to hear a violinist, albeit a talented one, solo over electronic drumbeats? This album is all over the place, ranging from tunes that sound like they were part of Riverdance to tunes that sound like they would belong more on a Sound Tribe Sector 9 album than a violin album. This is certainly a hard album to define, but if it sounds interesting to you, head over to to check out some free MP3’s. I guarantee you’ll be surprised.

Sam Katz
JamBase | Newton
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[Published on: 7/12/05]

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