In Irish mythology, cows from the underworld were white with red ears. It may be no surprise that Andrew Murray’s record label and website is “White cow music”, as Murray has a voice that could easily be gifted from the otherworld. Deep, resonant and extremely expressive, it is easy on the ear and invites one to listen closely to what he sings. It would also be no surprise to find that he was asked to tour with the iconic band DeDannan as lead singer for a time. Raised on the island of Inishbofin, Murray cut his musical teeth singing in sessions at his family’s Doonmore hotel on the island. I had read some favorable reviews about his debut album, “Hell or High Water” and when I got a copy, was pleased to find that the good reviews were justified. I will add to the pile, as this is such a wonderful listening experience. Parallels have been drawn between Murray and Sean Keane, but I think that both put their own stamp on the songs they sing. “Hell or High Water” has a bit of a watery theme, if you will, with songs as diverse as the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” to “Another Story” by Dougie MacLean. However, Murray has great taste as well as diverse sources. One of my favorite ballads, “Lord Franklin” detailing the doomed trip by Franklin to find the Northwest Passage is done wonderfully here. Other ‘big’ ballads such as “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose”, “Green Grow the Laurels” (another standout track) and “Jock O’Hazeldine” are sung by a singer who respects the tradition from which these songs come and gives these songs the weight they deserve. Murray even puts some nice sean nos embellishments on them as well. In this day of faster, harder and more effects on songs and tunes, this is a welcome oasis. Great songs sung with simple and beautiful guitar accompaniment. Gavin Ralston, a superb guitar player, not only knows the right treatment to play these songs, he also created a wonderful atmosphere with his production of this album. Well done! For all lovers of ballads and singers everywhere, this is a “must have” in the CD stack. In addition to the traditional ballads, Murray also includes Ewan McColls “The Father’s Song”, one I had not heard before but is stark and powerful particularly in light of today’s world situation. Another songwriter and singer I admire greatly is Kevin Doherty, who’s “Sweet Water” CD was one of my top picks the year it was released. Murray includes the Doherty song, “Slow Song” on this CD as well. Tom Waits, Dougie Mac Lean, Richard Thompson, Ewan McColl, Kevin Doherty, Robert Hunter, Thom Moore. A glittering galaxy of some of the best songwriters in the firmament. It would be a daunting task for most singers to go after any of these songs, but Murray reached for the stars, and succeeded brilliantly. This is a release that respects the worth of the songwriter’s craft and the listener is well rewarded for the effort. Let’s hope that Andrew Murray is already working on his next treasure box of songs. Cindy Reich is a contributing writer to “The Living Tradition”, Ayrshire, Scotland, “Irish Music Magazine”, Dublin, Ireland, and presents the radio music show, “The Long Acre” on Mondays, 1pm-3pm on 88.9 FM, KRFC Ft. Collins.

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