Artist: Murali Coryell
Album: Mr. Senator
Release Date: 10/07/2016
Murali Coryell takes a slightly different tact with this effort, recorded in Austin, TX and replete with some Tex-Mex touches and political references too. Self-produced, Murali is increasingly taking more projects into his own hands. While his father, Larry, has had a career as an iconic fusion jazz guitarist both as a sideman and leader, Larry’s best moments have arguably been as a sideman. Murali does both, too, but seems determined to flourish in the role of the leader. We still hear the pulls of jazz and blues, with some pop creeping in on this effort too. And, we see the singer/guitarist/songwriter continuing to mine that soul-blues approach that colored 2009’s Sugar Lips and 2014’s Restless Mind.
Playing mostly in a trio format, with some guests sprinkled in, the album begins with the title track, a blistering essay on one Texas senator’s failed Presidential candidacy. I think you know who he is referring to. Guitarist Louie Ortega guests on second guitar here and on the Tex -Mex track “Tejanos,” the first track Murali wrote in Spanish that would easily fit on a Los Lobos album. Saxophonist Bill Evans returns the favor on “Tuff Love” as Murali played on a few tracks on Evans’ own recent release, Rise Above. “Masquerade” pays tribute to George Benson, one of the many great musicians who visited the Coryell household when Murali was growing up. “Dysfunctional Child” is a rather painful autobiographical ditty that fortunately closes with optimism. Coryell covers Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” and at the suggestion of blues man Zac Harmon, renders the soul classic “Slip Away” as well. The others are all originals. Despite a couple of misses, the album carries plenty of strong moments. “Let’s Straighten It Out” is perhaps the best example of Coryell’s meshing soul into both his vocals and guitar. With this, his eighth album, It seems like Murali is getting more confident, showing us that he no longer needs high profile producers or mentors to forge his way.