THE MIGHTY Stef is something of a character on the Irish music scene with his larger than life personality and that huge, rough hewn, and unapologetically, Dublin voice.
That voice is very much the Dublin singer-songwriter’s signature sound. Love it and you love him; hate it and you will leave after the first song.
So The Mighty Stef (aka Stefan Murphy ), who regularly plays live in Galway, is a love him or hate him phenomenon - but on his new album TMS and The Baptists (The Firstborn Is Dead ), Stefan has delivered a collection of songs that will delight his admirers but, more importantly, go a long way towards making sceptics change their mind.
The album opens with ‘John The Baptist [Part One]’, a marvellous roots-rock number, distinguished by a captivating gospel chorus with a genuine ol’ time religion fervour. Other stand outs are the subtly poignant ‘Georgia Girl’ and ‘Jeffrey Lee Pierce’, which opens with the wonderful line: “’You have the bedside manner of an animal,’ she said...”
Sinister Gothic country-rock is the predominant musical style here and best heard on the atmospheric ‘Social Science’, and if Quentin Tarantino ever makes a western, he just might use a song like this in the soundtrack.
Stefan is certainly emerging well into his own voice/style, but the influence of such diverse vocalists as Eric Burdon, Iggy Pop, and Captain Beefheart are noticeable.
However the song that shows what a significant step forward Stefan has taken in his writing is ‘John The Baptist [Part Two]’, a sparse ballad, featuring only an acoustic guitar and an accordion.
It brims with darkness and sinister, pulp fiction ,styled imagery, which in their brutal way deal with themes of revenge, murder, and jealousy. It’s a brilliantly judged performance from Stefan, and an outstanding song that lingers long in the imagination after it’s over.
For his first two albums I was certainly a sceptic about The Mighty Stef, but TMS and The Baptists has changed my mind, revealing a strong and gifted songwriter who has truly hit his stride.