Great Lakes Chronicle - Lee Murdock  with the Blue Water Band

Great Lakes Chronicle

Lee Murdock
with the Blue Water Band

DEP-022

Depot Recordings
PO Box 11
Kaneville, IL 60144
(630) 557-2742

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Rick Russell
(Hodagg@aol.com)

Having been born and raised in the north woods of Wisconsin, and being a lover of traditional regional folk music, I was naturally very anxious to hear Lee Murdock's latest release, GREAT LAKES CHRONICLE. This album is a two-cd compilation of 20 songs, many of them released on his previous eight studio albums, but done live here. Eight of the songs are performed solo, just guitar and vocals, while the other twelve were recorded live with his Blue Water Band. Not usually being a fan of live albums, this cd is a very nice surprise because I was able to get background information about the songs that enabled me to enjoy them more.

The Great Lakes are rich in tradition and history, oftentimes unknown to people who live outside the region. Lee does a fantastic job of presenting just a few of these stories to us. He tells us of some of the shipwrecks that claimed the lives of sailors on the Great Lakes. He tells us of the folks who made their living working the ships and barges that traversed the Lakes. But no matter what the story, the common thread that runs through so many of these songs is "character." In a day and age like today, when we're being told that character doesn't matter anymore, these songs and stories prove otherwise.

The cd is a nice blend of traditional and contemporary songs that make up a tapestry of how life used to be around the Great Lakes, and what it still is for people today. In addition to several original songs, he has included songs by such great storytellers as Stan Rogers, Eric Bogle, and Shel Silverstein. What has raised this cd above the level of just a collection of songs about the Great Lakes is Lee Murdock's obvious love for the music, traditions, and people of this part of the country. This comes through in every note he sings, and in every word he says. According to Murdock:
"I'm trying to find the real life in these songs. I'm looking for the stories, the passions, the music that connects people across all the ages, whether on saltwater or sweetwater."

As a way of promoting the collection, Lee has made available a 5 song sampler cd free of charge for anyone interested in hearing this music. To get a copy send an email to him at jmurdock@mcs.com. The sampler has the great Stan Rogers classic White Squall, in addition to Lee's own The Christmas Ship, two of the strongest songs on the cd.

I heard a lot of influences on this cd: Woody Guthrie at times, Gordon Lightfoot at other times, a little Harry Chapin and a lot of Stan Rogers. It's probably no coincidence that two of those folks are Canadians. I highly recommend this cd to anyone who has a love for authentic traditional American music.

Every song is strong, and the performances are flawless. You will come away with a new or greater appreciation for the music and people of the Great Lakes region. The stories will entertain you and educate you, and that makes for a winning combination.

Track List:

Disk One
  • The Great Lakes Song (Shel Silverstein/Pat Dailey)
  • The Persia's Crew (traditional)
  • Low Bridge, Everybody Down (Thomas Allen)
  • Lost On The Lady Elgin (Henry Clay Work)
  • Queen of the Beach (Lee Murdock)
  • The Mules That Walked The Fo'c's'le Deck (traditional)
  • White Squall (Stan Rogers)
  • Shores Of Lake Michigan/May Day (trad. Larry Penn)
  • No Nets Will Be Found (Lee Murdock)
  • The Christmas Ship (Lee Murdock)
Disk Two
  • Cold Winds/Living (Tom Kastle)
  • Requiem for the Mesquite (Lee Murdock)
  • Illinois & Michigan Canal (Kevin O'Donnell)
  • The Ghost of Red Monroe (Lee Murdock)
  • Watching Lake Michigan Roll (Larry Penn)
  • Banks Of Cold Water (Craig Johnson)
  • Voices Across The Water (Lee Murdock)
  • The Longing That I Feel (Lee Murdock)
  • Safe In The Harbor (Eric Bogle)
  • Encore: Christmas Medley

Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz
(rschwartz@oeb.harvard.edu)

Copyright 1999, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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