Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chris Murray Combo: Why So Rude

It’s been 3 years since we last heard any tunes from Chris Murray, purveyor of some of the finest ska and reggae the west coast has to offer. Through his own musical projects and his highly successful showcases at the Bluebeat Lounge, Chris has been a force to reckon with in the California scene. The last time we heard from Chris was on Slackness, an album of freshly-arranged classics and brand new tunes with The Slackers as his backing band. Originally released in Japan in 2005, it took almost 2 years for most US fans to get their hands on it, when it was re-released by his own label, Unstrictly Roots in 2007. Since then, the rest of the world has been waiting to hear what California has already been lucky to hear; the next step in Chris’ evolution, his own band... the Chris Murray Combo.

Not having the chance to ever see the band, I was curious and a little speculative as to what the CMC sound would entail. I was afraid a full band would lead to bigger production and down the road to generica. Luckily I was proven wrong! Why So Rude captures all the best elements of the Chris Murray sound: simple and authentic ska rhythms that allow the unique vocals and heartfelt lyrics to shine, all rounded out and given a fuller sound by the excellent backing band.

The biggest standouts for me on Why So Rude are the backing vocals that provide some sweet triple harmonies in a majority of the songs. Familiar tunes We Do the Ska, The Real Ska, and Switchblade to Soul are updated here, as well as Michael & Anne, from King Apparatus, and Bob Marley and The Wailers' Maga Dog. The remaining 8 tracks are new compositions. The album rolls along at a steady, fairly upbeat pace, only slowing down in the middle on For The Last Time. After several repeated listens, my favorite tracks are Big Love, Maga Dog, Michael & Anne, and the title track, Why So Rude. 13 tracks clocking in at 40 minutes might leave you wanting more, but this album does hold up well to multiple repeats.

Why So Rude is a great “sipping a cup of coffee on a sunny Saturday morning” album, and I can see it being a great “cruising with the top down” driving album, or “relaxing at the beach” soundtrack as well. Actually, this is an album that can be played just about anywhere and make you want to dance, sing along, and put you in a great mood. I’m sure I’ll be playing this one all summer long!

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