Willie Murphy had quite a night on Friday. Sold-out, turn-away crowd. Two sets backed by a big band with horns and female backup singers.
The 65-year-old local hero was right at home at the Bedlam Theater on his beloved West Bank, celebrating the release of his new double disc, , “A Shot of Love in a Time of Need,” on Red House Records. The opening set was a little slow, heavy on the ballads. But the second set showed the full range of Murphy’s estimable talents to the delight of all the (ex)hippies and hipsters in the crowd.
The final three songs of the second set  (all taken from his new  double disc) were Murphy in a nutshell: “Love Attack,” a 1970s gutbucket soul with Willie’s screaming growl and expressive (and underappreciated) guitar; a cover of “Land of 1,000 Dances,” slowed to a greasy funk with jazzed up horns (Duke Ellington meets Wilson Pickett, drummer Bobby Vandell told me as we were listening), complete with a Frank Zappa-meets-Sun Ra ending; and “Fairy Tale,” Willie’s signature ballad (with a Salvation Army Band horn part) that suggests he is our Ray Charles. Then the band encored with a funky blues shuffle.
“Let’s do this again,” Murphy, who usually works solo, declared triumphantly and determinedly when it was over. Absolutely -- in a bigger venue like, say, the Cabooze.