By Stephen Pate – Joe Murphy came back from a 6-week medical leave for his knees on Saturday April 22, 2017. His return was worthy of a great artist who moves you with blues, rock and zydeco music.
Joe Murphy has packed the 2nd floor (see endnote) at Your Father’s Moustache with blues fans and dancers for 26 years with hardly a break. He is simply the best live blues act in the region. With an Irish father and Acadian mother, Joe was sneaking into clubs for the music since he was a teen. Years ago he did a pilgrimage to Louisiana to get the Zydeco funk.
Joe Murphy was missing-in-action for 6 weeks. That should sober us up.
We arrived late on Saturday, during the break. The master of the 26-year gig at Your Father’s Moustache was nowhere to be found.
Joe Murphy & The Water Street Blues Band at Your Father’s Moustache, 2016
Joe’s out chatting with fans and friends, we thought. Joe Murphy has thousands of fans and friends and he loves them all. He used to eat with us from time to time and we’d talk about his latest project or anything about the blues.
The Water Street Blues Band ambled back on stage, plugged in and pumped out a 12-bar blues without Joe Murphy on stage. Was he going to show? I kept waiting for an intro worthy of a James Brown concert, assuming he’d upped the showmanship.
From stage left, Joe appeared out of nowhere. He cautiously made his way to the stage, picked up his guitar and sang up a storm. You could tell he was hurting but the music didn’t suffer.
Another harmonica player was backing Joe. On one harp break, Joe slowly got his harp and mic and played along. In an instant, he blew the other harp player out of the water with his soulful break. The song went from great to awesome in seconds. Joe is also an excellent musician on slide and lead guitar and Cajun/Zydeco accordion.
This is new: a guitar tech gave Joe his instruments and held the strap until he was ready. You could see his range of motion was limited. There was nothing missing in the drive, groove and excitement of his performance. He teased, chided and tormented the audience like he always does.
The crowd at Your Father’s Moustache ate it up and filled the dance floor. As usual the dancers had their own drama going on. Along with the regulars like Crazy Legs George, we met an old friend from PEI. He said he comes over 3 or 4 times a year just to watch Joe Murphy.
I know how that feels. When Edith was working in Halifax, we were at Your Father’s Moustache every Saturday afternoon at 4 PM. We celebrated my birthday there one year. Joe started playing Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (Like The Way You Treated Me)’ until we got married.
Joe Murphy & The Water Street Blues Band at Your Father’s Moustache at The Harvest Blues Festival, September 2011
Watching Joe Murphy sit while singing reminded me of B.B. King, who sat for decades as he got older without losing his touch. Is that sacrilege to compare Joe Murphy to B.B. King? Not in the least. Joe Murphy is one of the best performing blues artists in Atlantic Canada and anywhere. He’s got the talent, the groove.
Sometimes the best artists are local not international stars. I was also mindful of how we are all aging and our best artists are aging with us. Joe Murphy is one of the great treasures of this region. We need to appreciate Joe and all of them before they can’t strut their stuff on stage any longer.
Joe Murphy sounds best live. Last year they recorded a matinee at Your Father’s Moustache and released it as a CD ’25 Years at The Moustache.’
The CD captures Joe at the band at their best performance.
You can get the CD at Taz Records in Halifax, NS or from Joe at Your Father’s Moustache.
Atlantic Canada has been the home of the blues for more than 50 years. For more news about blues on the east coast, check out The East Coast Blues Society.`
Endnote – Your Father’s Moustache is not wheelchair accessible. That creates problems for many people. If I go in my wheelchair, they store it at street level and I climb the stairs on crutches. It’s not pretty nor safe. Nova Scotia is proposing a new law that would make accessible venues a requirement.