Review: Cathal Murphy – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh

2022 has really been Cathal Murphy’s year. Hailing from Ireland but making Edinburgh his home for the last 2 years, the singer-songwriter has written and recorded the soundtrack to the film ‘Reavey Brothers’ based on the 1976 killing of the Reavey Brothers in Armagh, Ireland. He flew to Montreal to record an EP that has just been released, creatively titled the Montreal Sessions, and has just completed a UK tour supporting slide guitar virtuoso Ariel Posen (who also produced Cathal’s EP). It’s fair to say things are looking up for the young musician. Tonight I’m at Sneaky Pete’s in Cowgate, Edinburgh once again for Cathal’s first headlining gig.

Sneaky Pete’s is tiny and the venue is utterly rammed to the point I spend the entire gig pinned to the wall, it’s clear there is some hype surrounding tonight’s acts.

First up is Violet Monstera, a four-piece pop band. Opening with a short but sweet cover of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’, the band keeps things nice and simple allowing room for singer Evie Healey to soar over it. There are a few quiet moments on stage between songs and it’s clear the band is in its infancy but they have a great sound that I guess could be described as jazzy pop. ‘Japanese Denim’ gives us a taste of guitarist Sam Burgess’s vocals which are utterly sublime and soulful. There is a wonderful stripped-down version of ‘Say A Little Prayer’ performed by Healey with just Sam’s guitar accompanying her. It really shows off just how wonderful a vocalist she is. There are hints of Alison Goldfrapp and Duffy in her voice and a huge dollop of sultry jazz.

I couldn’t help feeling like I’d love to hear them try some original material. Well, following a cover of ‘Figures’ that goes down a storm with the crowd we are treated to ‘Little Sky Blue’. Written by Sam, it’s a mid-tempo soulful pop number with a great bassline provided by Laurie McFarlane and some solid drumming from Tom Steedy. Rounding off with a storming rendition of ‘Feeling Good’ I felt I was witnessing the beginning of something great much like somebody at the first Beatles or Nirvana gig. This is the embryo of a band that have a bright future.

Beginning with a slow mellow mix of keys and guitar before Cathal Murphy declares “Alright, Let’s do it!” and kicks off a mega funky instrumental jam that harkens back to the disco clubs of 70s New York. “Everybody get down”, the singer instructs the crowd to sit, crouch, and just get on the floor as the groove simmers along and they plant themselves there waiting for the beat to drop. When said beat has dropped the place explodes as the audience starts jumping and dancing to the infectious rhythm.

 

CM’s music is sophisticated pop, making use of complex chords to spice up his writing, R&B grooves and rhythms, and smooth jazz guitar solos a la George Benson. I can definitely hear his music being played in down-tempo clubs and bars. At times there are the obvious nods to John Mayer and Ariel Posen but it seems unfair to compare him to others when his writing is for me at least, so unique.

‘Girl At Home’ features a simple funk riff as the framework for Cathal’s smooth vocals and squelchy wah guitar. During the solo a hush comes over the crowd, all eyes on the dashing frontman wringing every note out of his Stratocaster. As the solo intensifies whoops and cheers ring out. ‘Overworked, Underpaid’, the latest single is next. The chorus is taught to the crowd and after a few humorous attempts, they finally get it. The groove is infectious and the sound coming from the four-piece band is huge, notably the bass played by Lewis Shaw. Shaw even gets a bass solo and it is fat and jazzy. A real highlight for me!

‘My Girl’ includes a sample of Murphy’s delightful girlfriend played by synth/guitar player David Scobie. It’s a deep slow jam that oozes funk with a sub-bass that hits you in the chest. There are plenty of laughs as Cathal tries to get the audience to sing an E note so it can be sampled for ‘Ever Since We Were Young’. Eventually, it works after it’s discovered that the first attempt recorded nothing. An impromptu cover of Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’ gives Scobie time to fix the issue. Perseverance pays off. Finishing with ‘Emotional Disco’ there is literally no room for the band to leave the stage before their encore so they just play it. ‘Frame’ features extended guitar solos where Murphy brings guitar players up from the crowd to show us their chops. It is a terrific end to a short but thoroughly entertaining set!

Check both these acts out as soon as you can so you can say I was there at the beginning before they got huge!

Review – Colin Plumb

Cathal Murphy’s new EP ‘Blue In The Best Way’ is available here.

Connect with Cathal on social media here.

Live photo credits:

Cathal Murphy – Louis Hudd

Violet Monstera – James Woodward

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