The technique of Matt “Guitar” Murphy is one of the true wonders of the blues world: impossibly fast an light-fingered one minute, ecstatically raw-edged and metallic the next. He’s lent his dexterous fret work to stylists as diverse as Howlin’ Wolf, Memphis Slim, and James Cotton, and in recent years he’s been leading his own band: he’s liable to charge through a swingmg version of a bebop standard like “Billie’s Bounce,” a grinding Memphis-style shuffle, and a cacophonous round of free-form improvisation within the course of a single opening set, and his bandmates usually match him note for note. Unfortunately, Murphy can’t seem to find the confidence to keep his instrumental wizardry out front through an entire show–he plays a few songs, then steps back and lets a singer take over the rest of the performance. But this inevitable letdown never quite eclipses the majesty of the opening numbers, when it’s just Murphy and his guitar against the world. Tonight and Saturday, B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont; 525-8989.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.