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Trish Murphy's 'Girls Get In Free' - A Review

By David Okamoto, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – [Track 1: "All I Want"]

Four years after a 1999 brush with pop stardom that landed her on Mercury Records and the stages of Lilith Fair, Austin singer-songwriter Trish Murphy gets back in touch with her Texas roots, and herself, on a revealing new CD titled Girls Get In Free.

Like the striking cover photo - which, unlike the previous albums, finds the Houston native staring down the camera instead of turning away - these songs are disarmingly direct, almost unflinching in their examinations of the broken heart. From the emotionally spent single mother of "One For The Boys" to the hell-raising housewives of "Thelma and Louise" to the battle-scarred heroine of "I'm Crying As Fast As I Can," Murphy's narrators are mired in the rubble of disintegrating relationships. Some are still tunneling out, others are dusting themselves off - but most are just anxious to stop hurting and start healing.

[Track 4: "I'm Crying As Fast As I Can"]

Recorded in Austin and released on Murphy's own Raven label, Girls Get In Free marks a triumphant return to the jangling, fiddle and pedal-steel-laced sound of 1998's Crooked Mile. As she proves on such roof-raising tracks as "The Trouble With Trouble" and a rowdy duet with Bob Schneider on Lyle Lovett's "Cowboy Man," Murphy can still twist and twang with the vengeance of Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams in their Lone Star heydays.

But the real power of Girls Get In Free lies in its poignancy. Armed with a commanding voice that can erupt from a confessional whisper into a hurricane howl, Murphy has developed into a nuanced singer, caressing the melodies and daring to reach for the high notes that she used to just broadside. As a result, such deceptively simple lines as "It took all I had to leave it all behind" and "I'm tired of being strong" lend her songs a newfound sense of vulnerability.

On the marvelous "All I Want," she yearns to take shelter in a former lover's arms without making it sound like surrender, while on "I Don't Want To Believe," a haunting ballad written by Craig Marshall of Austin swing band The Lucky Strikes, she captures the soul-searing ache of denial.

[Track 11: "I Don't Want To Believe"]

Despite these bittersweet themes, and such chilling song titles as "Love Never Dies (It Just Gives Up)" and "Paralyzed," Girls Get In Free comes across dark, but not depressing. There are moments when it seems like the only light her heartbroken characters will ever see is the flickering glow of a bedroom TV. But when she declares "I'm waiting for hope to hit me again," it's clear her message is that love is always a leap of faith - and sometimes you just have to take baby steps to get there.

 

David Okamoto is a senior entertainment producer at Yahoo Broadcast and a contributing editor to ICE Magazine. Trish Murphy's Girls Get In Free will be released on Tuesday, October 14th.