Minneapolis blues and soul vet Willie Murphy is hosting a “listening party” Friday night at the Minneapolis Eagles Club #34 (7 p.m., 2527 E. 25th St., $8) -- and for now listening is about all he can do to promote his new album.
Also celebrating his 75th birthday this weekend, the West Bank music hero is coming off a monthlong stretch of hospital and care-facility stays, after he suffered a severe stomach flu and blood infection in September. He had to learn to walk again, and now he’s undergoing therapy to get his voice back. He lost about half his range from having a tube jammed down his throat, he explained, but doctors don't believe the damage will be permanent.
“Singing is actually my favorite thing to do, so I hope to come out on top of it,” said Murphy, who finished off this topical and semi-political new album with his band the Angel Headed Hipsters before his respite.
Titled “Dirtball” — a reference to “our angry Earth,” not you know who, he said — the record offers an all-in-this-together theme over soulful horns and tight-boogying grooves. It's at once a dark and lamenting album but also remarkably upbeat musically and hopeful lyrically. Financed through a crowd-sourcing GoFundMe campaign, the new tracks range from the swampy, growly title track to the serene, talking-blues ballad "What About Love" to the dancefloor-ready "A Shot of Love in a Time of Need," which was actually the title of Murphy's last album in 2009. But he didn't write the tune of the same name until recently.
"I liked the title so much, I thought I should make a song out of it, too," he explained.
Murphy hopes to be healed up in time to perform some of the songs at his annual year-end Eagles Club gig on Dec. 29. In the meantime, bandmates and friends are raising money at Friday’s event to help offset his lost income. The Minnesota music icon doesn’t want to think of it as just a fundraiser, though.
“This is the release party,” he clarified. “I hope to sell some damn CDs.”
Murphy's new tunes aren't available in online form yet, so here's a gem of a clip from his 2011 "Minnesota Original" profile by TPT that's similar in flavor.