A Cure-all for the Thursday Night Blues:
The lilting harmonies of Billy Joe Murphy

By: Jessica Acuna

Angsty. Enigmatic. Moody. Charming. Billy Joe Murphy embodies all of a musician’s best traits while asserting his own unique musical presence. Penning graceful lyrics and soft rock ballads since his adolescence in Pennsylvania, 24-year-old Murphy continues to write and cultivate his musical style here in Wilmington. Some of you may have heard a copy of Billy Joe Murphy and Yesterday’s Love Song’s 2003 self-titled debut, a sophisticated collection of supple rock tunes performed by Murphy and band members Tripp Murphy, Seth Moody and Matt Barbour. These days, however, you can catch Murphy going solo on Thursday nights at Divano sofa bar.

Donning snug blue jeans, a faded t-shirt and the essential musician’s jacket, Billy Joe Murphy has all the makings of a proper rock god. He strums his guitar, closes his eyes and melts onto the stage, belting out his elegant balladry with shameless finesse. During his performance of the hauntingly beautiful “Saving Grace,” he hugs his guitar and laments, “I’ve cut out love,” pulling the heartstrings of the crowd with his sentimental melody. Songwriter to a style of rock as introverted as his personality, Murphy says little between his performances, save a hushed humble “Thank you.” With his pensive lyrics, rapturous tunes and vulnerable stage presence, Murphy captures and delivers the unadorned spirit of a true artist.

Musicians usually try to emulate their influences, whether conscious of it or not. Murphy doesn’t try to hide his strong affinity for the late great Jeff Buckley, scattering covers from Grace throughout his set list of originals. He even bore the financial brunt to record the album at legendary Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, the place where Buckley unleashed his soul for Grace, a sort of pilgrimage for devoted fans and a dream recording site for revering musicians.

Buckley’s influence is apparent in every aspect of Murphy’s music. From his delicate instrumentals and poetic lyrics to his mellifluous rock tunes, Murphy displays a marvelous rawness that so many have found captivating in Buckley’s music. Perhaps more incredible is Murphy’s brilliant falsetto, a trait eerily reminiscent of Buckley’s trademark singing range. In addition to his gift for songwriting, Murphy’s got a voice that some musicians would kill for. You’re sure to never hear a more convincing cover of “Mojo Pin”or “Grace” from anyone else. From his stirring cover of Buckley’s “Forget Her,” to his warm performance of his sublime original “Second Guess,” Murphy delivers a smooth singing voice of impressive range.

Murphy has managed to create and produce his own lovely form of genius. Playing a rounded balance of album favorites and works-in-progress, like his latest composition “Dizzy,” Murphy’s talent for arrangement assures his appeal to a multitude of audiences. Full of painful yearning, stormy rampage and intense emotion, Murphy’s lyrics are at times hopeful, at times downright melancholy. You only have to hear one of Murphy’s songs to know the kid has an obvious aptitude for bottling life’s most heartbreaking moments with stunning exactness. Songs like “Love is a Coward” explores the bittersweet qualities of misery, while ending the evening’s performance with Buckley’s majestic “Lover You Should Have Come Over,” suggests Murphy’s sentimentality and incredible range.

In case you can’t already guess, witnessing Billy Joe Murphy’s exceptional musical talents is a supreme experience. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself this Thursday from 9:30-10:30pm at Divano, located above Prima restaurant downtown. In this tranquil setting, you can sit in plush sofas with your friends, favorite beverage in hand and truly enjoy the enlightened instrumentation of a rising talent. What else on Thursday nights can compete with that?

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