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Elliott Murphy continues rocking

Club Passim, Canton, Mass., December 15, 2011

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Elliott Murphy is not exactly a household name, despite critical acclaim early in his career and 31 albums now under his belt. But give credit to the Long Island native, who has lived in Paris for years, for persevering.

The fact of the matter is that at 62, Murphy and his crack backing French trio do a mighty fine job of dishing out rock with a sometimes rootsy edge. What makes it doable is that Murphy has a slew of excellent songs at his disposal.

Vocally, Murphy shares a resemblance to Dylan, although far from throaty. Murphy sings far better than Dylan does these days. He also got rootsy, with a Springsteen bent, on Everything I Do Leads Me Back To You. Good reason for the Springsteen connection - The Boss sang on the original recording 15 years ago.

He certainly let the songs reach their climax, often letting his band play out. Murphy's band, the Normandy All Stars were anchored by top shelf guitarist Olivier Durand, who has played with Murphy for 16 years. He played acoustic guitar, but it sure didn't sound like it as he was getting electric sounds out of that thing.

The new tracks from Murphy held up well. At this stage, Murphy is highly unlikely to reach any kind of wide audience, but that's not where he is at these days. He is about making quality music, and on this night, he succeeded quite well.

Scott Kempner is best known for being a member of The Dictators and later The Del-Lords, but he's been touring with Murphy for the past week. A rare visit to these parts found him playing a chunk of Del-Lords song (he'll be doing a lot more of that soon as they are about to release a disc).

It was great to hear stripped down versions of such songs as Living on Love, Cheyenne and a song he wrote with Dino (as in The Belmonts), Heartbeat of Time. Kempner gave the songs a different spin, and a good one at that, but at some level, it made you wish the entire Del-Lords would have been on stage. Time will heal that feeling.

The crowd may have been quite small, maybe 40 people, but it wasn't for the lack of quality displayed by Kempner and Murphy.