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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: Jessie Murphy In The Woods - Eight Belles

Jessie Murphy In The Woods - Eight Belles
2009, Rex Records

Sometimes you get into the middle of the recording process and simply realize the sound isn't working for you. That's what happened to Jessie Murphy, then a Masters in Music candidate at Columbia University in New York City. She approached two classmates, Marcia Wood (Wurlitzer, flute, clarinet, harmonica, pan pipes, vox) and Amy Wood (horn, cajon/percussion, flute, melodica, autoharp, vox) and asked them to come along for the ride, not realizing the instant chemistry they would find playing together. From the ruins of one project a primal force of Chamber Pop was born in Jessie Murphy In The Woods. The band has toured the UK (with a feature spot on Cambridge University Radio) and played dates all across the United States. Their first venture into recording together has resulted in Eight Belles, an EP that began making the rounds in mid-2009. Eight Belles holds the magic of a fairy tale and the promise of a troubadour, all wrapped up in the beautiful, gothic tapestry of music woven by Jessie Murphy In The Woods.

Eight Belles opens with New York City Lights, a love-song from Murphy to her constant companion and best friend, the city in which she lives. Murphy's voice is mesmerizing, and the harmonies coming from the Woods create moments so palpable they are almost frozen in time. In The Woods is a song about discovery that could be a metaphor for musical experience of the band, personal experiences, relationships, etc. The lost feeling perhaps implied by the title quickly slips away in the wake of a sense of wonder and an exquisite arrangement that's more Baroque than Pop. Owen Wilson uses a bit of humor to honor all those whose passion or talent drive them to the edge and beyond of societies expectations. When I Am A Horse Again is one of the more unusual musical allegories I've come across, recalling a perfect childhood moment and yearning for the sort of perfection we only know once. Written in a form of lyrical prose, When I Am A Horse Again is strong on imagery and may lose you if you try to get too analytical with the lyrics. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the disc is Eight Belles, a tribute to the horse who nearly took the Kentucky Derby away from Big Brown in 2008 until her ankles gave out. The horse was euthanized but gains immortality in a touching and beautiful song with a melody that's destined to be considered "traditional".

Jessie Murphy In The Woods is a serendipitous coming together of three musicians with singular voices who work together like The Muse's own instrument, creating magic each time they step on stage or in front of a microphone. If there's any basis for a Pop/Classical musical Renaissance, it will start with a band like Jessie Murphy In The Woods. The music presented on Eight Belles is innovative, beautiful constructed and has a distinct air of virtuosity about it. Welcome to the big dance, Jessie Murphy In The Woods. Before the night is over you might just be the belle of the ball.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jessie Murphy In The Woods at, or Presently there is no online availability of Eight Belles that I could locate, although if you contact Jessie Murphy In The Woods through their MySpace page I’m sure you can work something out.

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