Photo by Jeff Wheeler, firstname.lastname@example.org
Minneapolis music legend Willie Murphy is a walking, talking, piano-playing paradox. A gimlet-eyed cynic who remains open to the glimmer of hope. A dyed-in-the-flannel hippie dipping his toe into the cesspool of social media.
Now Murphy ventures into the brave new world of crowdfunding for his forthcoming album "Dirtball," his first full-length release since the 2009 Red House Records double disc "A Shot of Love in a Time of Need." Despite his aversion to the Disinformation Age (two songs take a shot at Facebook), so far he's raised more than half of the $8,500 goal on his GoFundMe page.
"Dirtball," his most political album since 1997's "Monkey in the Zoo," reflects his conflicted outlook as it swings wildly in mood, from grim fatalism about the state of civilization to wistful introspection. "Can I learn to change myself? Can we be strong enough to change the world?" he sings in "Message to Your Heart."
Reached by phone, Murphy said one of the 10 songs was written in a day — Inauguration Day 2017, to be exact ("Something Happened") — while others date in part as far back as the 1980s. Basic tracks were recorded at home, then augmented by musicians including his band the Angel Headed Hipsters.
The title track started as a joke during a songwriting session that took a dark turn, imagining a "Swamp Thing"-like scenario where the polluted Earth takes its revenge on humanity. Murphy explains: "'Dirtball' is our mother the Earth talking to us in a very angry tone: 'You poisoned me, now I poison you.'"
"It's probably years too late to say this stuff," he confessed. Nonetheless the album ends on a hopeful note.
"In a world filled with fear, we will fight for love," he sings in "Beyond," as the music builds to a crescendo worthy of fellow eco-warriors Cloud Cult. "We were born for this time. We were born to go here."
Encouraging words, hippie or not. As some guy even older than Willie once wrote, "He not busy being born is busy dying."