Roadhouse Album Review: Kathy Murray & The Kilowatts turned on with current “Fully Charged” album

Kathy Murray & The Kilowatts — “Fully Charged” — Blue Heart Records

At the top of the first page of this band’s website, it says their new album is “showcasing Murray at the peak of her mastery of American roadhouse music.”

Well. If an album of fine roadhouse music doesn’t deserve mention here in the Roadhouse, where else?

Roadhouse music, by the way, is a catchphrase that describes an assortment of musical styles good for things like listening, drinking or dancing (or all three) — and it can put its lovin’ arms around country, blues, ballads, and just about any music that could also be called rootsy, or maybe Americana.

But that’s just all a bunch of words. Maybe it’s better to describe the music by its performers. And that’s where Kathy Murray comes in.

At first glance, Kathy, plus the Kilowatts, is a bluesy Texas songbird, backed by a crisp combo making fine music. Well, they are that. But they are much more. Murray is a talented singer-songwriter with an expressive honey-layered Southern voice (must be a Texas thang!). Her bandleader and partner, Bill Jones, leads the way with expressive guitar that matches the many moods of the music and Murray’s vocals.

Since this is very much a Texas band, the opener is a traditional Texas shuffle, “Expense of Love.” That’s followed by “My Mistake,” a torchy blues with appropriate guitar and the Texas Horns for good measure. The road (and roadhouse) song “Changing Lanes” revs things into a higher gear.

“The House That Freddie Built” is a tribute to the “Texas Cannonball,” the great Freddie King, and the years he spent on the musically vital Austin scene at The Armadillo World Headquarters.

There is much more. All excellent listening. Murray’s vocals shift gently from song to song, but never lose their essential expressiveness — she pulls you into each song, especially more thoughtful musings such as “Wash Away The Pain” and one of my favorites, the melancholy country-flavored “Breakup Breakdown.” And she casts her own sultry vocal spell on the old Irma Thomas track, “Anyone Who Knows What Love
Is.” And can rock out hard and fast, as in “Get Ahold of Yourself,” behind a pounding piano.

Another favorite is her effortless sensuality on the classic Tampa Red version of “It Hurts Me Too.” If you want to take an interesting side trip into the blues, both Red (Hudson Whittaker or Woodbridge) and the song itself have long and colorful histories. After you’ve listened to Murray’s music, come back and check those links. After all, they’re included free of charge, along with this blog, also free of charge.

This is an excellent album by a talented singer and songwriter, with impressive credentials: Along with co-songwriters Christoffer ‘Kid” Andersen, Rick Estrin and Frank Bey, Murray
wrote the title cut on Frank Bey’s album, “All My Dues Are Paid,” posthumously nominated for
“Best Traditional Blues Album” in the 63rd Grammy Awards, and for “Song of the Year” in the
2021 Blues Music Awards. Murray received the 2003 “Songwriter of the Year” award from the
Australian Blues Music Awards and two Silver Medals from the 2018 Global Music Awards.

So have a listen. It’s cool, smart and smooth Texas music from cool, smart and smooth Texan Kathy Murray.

Here’s a video of “The House That Freddie Built” from the album:

Another libation tip (yes, I actually do this): It’s Famous Grouse Smoky Black blended Scotch.

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