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Rich Murray – White Freightliner Blues (Single Review)


It always is quite interesting to me when an artist puts out a cover song that breathes new life into an existing song. The intent is generally quite wholesome, with a bit of ingenuity required to maintain the essence of the original song while also putting your input and style into it. After attempting certain methods of merging other genres with certain songs in the style of covers, I think this itself is a referential art form. Even songwriting its isolate has to have a point of inspiration, doesn’t it? However, today we shall forgo the long discourse of where inspiration ends and originality begins, and bask in the results of what can culminate when one covers a song and gives it a new lease on life.

Today’s review of choice chronicles the inspiration mentioned in the first paragraph, but which is a unique artist named Rich Murray. He describes himself as an Americana / Outlaw Country and a Bluesman artist. All of these genres are intrinsically linked, in the way that they musically and philosophically build upon each other as well as feed off of each other. Not to also forget, all three of these genres boast a colourful and significant history that cannot be ignored in the hallmark of music. His latest release, ‘White Freightliner Blues’, is a cover of a song from the legendary Townes Van Zandt, a notable figure in the realm of outlaw country and a stellar songwriter himself.

Just as any innovative artist would do, Rich Murray and his team of competent musicians set out a blueprint for how they wanted the cover track to actually sound, and stick out. The production team behind this song had a sound in mind they intended to replicate, and the lead guitar track was done by Bill Kirchen, credited as the ‘the king of dieselbilly guitar‘. Dieselbilly is a subgenre associated with twangcore, being a hybrid of country, rockabilly, blues, boogie-woogie as well as Western swing. Kirchen’s sound is described as a driving, distinct telecaster tone, later imitated but never truly duplicated. The production and the hard-hitting percussion in the track are also provided by Indiana native Dane Clark, also the longtime drummer for John Mellencamp. The harmony vox was gracefully provided by Murray’s longtime friend, Jack R. Fields. Unfortunately, Mr. Fields passed away shortly after the recording of this track, having also contributed to Murray’s discography in tracks such as Down the Road, Are We There Yet, and I’m Gone, Raisin’ Hillbilly Hell. The accordion track, paying homage to the genre of Cajun zydeco, was played by Troye Kinnett, also associated with John Mellencamp. Last but not least, Rich Murray himself played the bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and the lead vox on the track, and the track itself was recorded at Dane Clark’s Thunder Sound Studio.

In terms of marketing, the track is currently promoted towards Americana and college radio sectors as well as projected to reach major market radio in the 3rd quarter of this year. All of this information, in tandem, makes the track sound extremely interesting. Let’s dive into it.

Off the bat, I can tell that a lot of effort and intent went into re-imagining the original song. It is extremely upbeat, and catchy, with more instances of melodic variation going on at the same time due to the sheer number of instruments layered on top of each other. The accordion, even if it has references to the genre of zydeco, is a pretty universal instrument to me: it shows up in almost every genre in each part of the world. The Americas, Europe, Western Asia, East Africa, Southeast Asia… you name it. In that sense, I do admit that I have a deep appreciation for the use of accordions in any form of track.

The groove of the track is pretty steady and consistent throughout the track, almost giving it a somewhat bebop feel. The syncopation of the drum is absolutely perfect in playing a sort of call-and-response towards the rest of the instruments, as its beat gives way to anticipation and the polyphony of the other instruments helps to quell that anticipation with melodic prowess. I think the way this track merges all kinds of subgenres is quite innovative and ingenious. The accordion gives it a regal tone, while the guitars give it a bluesy twang, carving an edge to this overall song.

Rich Murray’s vocals are robust and give justice to the original song, and the harmony vox in this track is extremely subtle yet significant. It beautifully supports the main vocals. Props also go to the blues guitar solo at the mark of 2:20. It almost reminds me of the surf rock style of guitar in the 60s, and a hint of wild west fun. It’s a quirk in music that I rarely hear these days. I also appreciate the production of this track. Not only is every instrument mastered to the best of its ability, with no instruments clashing with each other, I notice that the accordion is panned towards the left and the melodic guitar is panned towards the right. I think this choice in production helps to give each instrument the shine it deserves with isolated panning, instead of clashing together.

Overall, I think this track is great in many aspects. It did very well in re-imagining older songs, without losing the essence of the song. It also shined in terms of adding musical variability through mixing various subgenres of Americana as well as a melodic variation to keep the listener on their toes and never had even a four-bar measure that tuned me out. Lastly, I think the production in this track is genuinely top-notch. The subtle notes and actions done in panning and mastering show the high level of competency of Rich Murray and his team.

Score/Excellent: Rich Murray and his wonderful production team did an excellent job at reimagining ‘White Freightliner Blues’. It is highly upbeat, exciting, and musically competent. It takes elements from different subgenres in Americana and boasts extremely high detail to subtle cues in production. Highly recommended!

[We rank singles, EPs, and albums on a scale of Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding]

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Rich Murray – White Freightliner Blues (Single Review)