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Matt Bennett

Charlie Murphy is a Dead Man

Review by Gary Hill

Many times the music or the vocal performance or both are the most crucial parts of a release. The set succeeds or fails based on this. Well, in this instance, the key element is the lyrics. The songs here succeed based on those lyrics. These are stories. They represent slices of life. And, they are powerful. Sure, the performances that carry these stories are an important part of the puzzle, but without these classy stories, this would pale.

There have always been jokes and clichés about country music that it’s all about everything going wrong. This set really does confirm that stereotype. These are sad songs. Still, they are also real. They are real because most of the time they show that while something might be sad, it’s also more complicated than that. Life is messy. There is often an empowering or rewarding side to the sadness. Bennett manages to capture that in these songs. Really, it is that sort of realistic story-telling that captures the heart of the listener. It is the biggest piece of magic here. And, it’s great.

Bennett’s vocals are not perfect, but they work here. They lend a certain vulnerability to the album. The blemishes bring credibility to the music. That combined with the quality of lyrical content makes this a nearly perfect set. It might very well top some “best of 2013” lists. Overall, Bennett is a story-teller, and these are great stories. It’s highly recommended for anyone who likes music that lives or dies by the lyrics, and particularly “slice of life” songs. It doesn’t get much better than this.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Charlie Murphy

“Charlie Murphy” opens the set. The musical elements on the tune are very traditional, old school country. The vocals are suitably twangy, too. It’s a great way to get things going in style. It’s a revenge song, but it isn’t really glorifying the violence.

Habits Cries
This is more folk-oriented. While the previous cut was fairly mellow, this is slower even more like a stripped down ballad.
The Price

“The Price” seems to live in a land somewhere between traditional folk music and bluegrass.


This is more of a pure mellow country ballad. The harmonica adds a nice flavor.

She Walked Away

Another that’s quite mellow, “She Walked Away” lands more on the folk end of the spectrum. The story is gritty and sad, but also feels very real.

Brown Eyes

Here is a definite example of a song that’s about joy and sadness at the same time. That makes it a real slice of life. Musically it’s more of an evocative folk ballad. It is one of two songs here that features some female vocals (provided by Ali McCormick) along with Bennett’s. It also has a nice acoustic guitar solo section.

How to Live

This seems more intimate in terms of musical arrangement. The chorus is quite catchy. The song has more layers added later. Still, like most of the set it’s essentially a folk meets country ballad.

Best Day of My Life

This is arguably the most poignant song on the album. It’s also one that showcases that dual nature of a sad song with joy in it, too. It’s likely to create a lot of damp eyes. It’s also quite beautiful.

Who Am I

“Who Am I” has some vocals that are rather raw. Rather than detract, though, they really lend something to the stripped down, vulnerable ballad approach of the song. The number does have a moment that might not be appropriate for kids.

Turn the Page

This is more country based than some of the other music here. It also earns a parental advisory.

That’s Why I Lie

McCormick returns for the closing song, “That’s Why I Lie.” The piece (a duet) is about the concept that two people in the same relationship can have completely different ideas about what’s going on in that relationship.

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