Northern Journey Online

Lee Murdock

(Great Lakes Songs; Singer-Songwriter)

For the purposes of this book, Lee Murdock has been declared an "honourary Canadian." Based in Kaneville, Illinois, outside of Chicago, Murdock is a specialist in Great Lakes songs, some of which he writes and many of which he has researched and brought back into circulation. His material is part American and part Canadian, with stories that reflect the history and people on all the shores of the Great Lakes as well as the sailors from both countries who ply the inland oceans.

Murdock began his performing career as a folk-blues artist and only later discovered the extensive body of music and stories of the Great Lakes when he started a simple search looking for folk songs from his own local history. Audiences loved the material he unearthed and asked for more. From that time forward, Murdock has become the chief interpreter of Great Lakes material, appearing frequently at American and Canadian venues and festivals in the Great Lakes region. A good guitarist who switches between 6-string and 12-string, Murdock has an engaging voice that is a perfect match for his material. He puts just the right touch to his material. In addition to historical songs and original songs, Murdock also collects other contemporary songs about the Lakes. Performers looking for fresh material will find plenty of good songs on these albums, and lyrics are included. Murdock received a Harry Hibbs Porcupine Award in 1995.

Murdock's first album to include Great Lakes material is Fertile Ground (1989) which includes "Christmas Ship"--a Murdock original that has become one of his trademark numbers--and "The Bigler's Crew" and "The Eastland." Canadian listeners will also enjoy Murdock's version of "Lady Franklin's Lament," not a Great Lakes song, but a song dear to Canadian audiences.

By Cold Winds (1991) Murdock was hitting his stride with his new repertoire. Most of the songs on the album are Lake songs. The album also includes a nice interpretation of James Keelaghan's "Rebecca's Lament." Safe in the Harbour (1993) is one of Murdock's finest releases and one highly recommended for anyone new to his music. Starting with the splendid song "The Downtowner Motel," the album progresses through a memorable set of material. Of note is Murdock's fine interpretation of Stan Rogers' "White Squall." "The Spirits of Long Point" is a humourous account of a shipwreck off Long Point in Ontario. The album also has another interesting Canadian connection: the version of Eric Bogle's "Safe in the Harbour" (a song written in memory of Stan Rogers) is an unusual version of the song Murdock learned from the singing of one-time Ontario resident Margaret Christl.

Freshwater Highway (1995) starts off with the upbeat, up-tempo Shel Silverstein number "The Great Lakes Song," a good song for young and adult audiences alike. The album is sprinkled liberally with historical material blended with contemporary writing. A well-produced album, Murdock is joined by a number of fine session musicians.

Voices Across the Water (1997) may be Murdock's finest album, musically. The album is highlighted by Murdock's own songwriting, including two memorable songs he has written about the Great Lakes, "Deep Blue Horizon" and "Voices Across the Water." There is a good selection of traditional Great Lakes material as well as one of Murdock's most popular concert medleys: "Red Iron Ore / Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." "Red Iron Ore" is a song about the E.C. Roberts, a large schooner that was also considered "the pride of the line." Both ships hauled iron ore and both were bound for Cleveland. The Roberts was eventually sold for scrap while the Fitzgerald met her doom in a wreck made famous by Gordon Lightfoot. Murdock is joined by another fine cast of guest musicians and backup vocalists on this recording.

Great Lakes Chronicle (1998) is a 2-CD set of Murdock material from live concerts. CD 1 features Murdock in concert with the Blue Water Band. The album captures the spirit of a Lee Murdock concert and preserves some of his between-song information about ships on the Great Lakes. Many of these songs have been released on previous albums, but hearing them performed live adds a pleasant ambiance. The 2-CD set makes an excellent introduction to Murdock's music, but performers should note that this album does not include lyric sheets. Recommended.


Fertile Ground
1989 Depot (DEP009)
Fertile Ground; St. Louis Tickle; The Eastland; Trouble in Mind; Carolan's Quarrel with the Landlady; Lakes of Pontchartrain; The Bigler's Crew; Gilderoy/Flowers of the Forest; Lady Franklin's Lament; Dollar Down and a Dollar a Day; Charles O'Connor; The Christmas Ship 50:19

Cold Winds
1991 Depot (DEP-011)
Prelude/The Captain and the Mystic; Shores of Lake Michigan/May Day (Bannockburn); Foxfire Light; Last Winter Was a Hard One; Downbound on Superior; Low Bridge, Everybody Down; Cold Winds; Living Gale; Rebecca's Lament; Wreck of the Carl D. Bradley; Banks of Cold Waters; E.C. Roberts; Walk-in-the-Water; I'll Be with You/Reprise 58:06

Safe in the Harbor *
1993 Depot (DEP-013)
The Downtowner Motel; Lost on the Lady Elgin; Yankee Brown; White Squall; The Spirits of Long Point; Rendezvous; Keeper of the Light; Watching Lake Michigan Roll; You Damned Old Piney Mountains; The Gallagher Boys; Joshua Johnson; Indiana; Safe in the Harbor 65:12

Freshwater Highway
1995 Depot (DEP-017)
The Great Lakes Song; Heave Her Up and Bust Her; No Nets Will Be Found; The Scow Netty Fly; Fire on the Water; Haul Away Joe; The Illinois and Michigan Canal; Requiem for the Mesquite; The Glendy Burk; The Ghost of Red Monroe; It's Time for Us to Leave Her; The Cold Freshwater Trade 49:54

Voices Across the Water *
1997 Depot (DEP-020)
Deep Blue Horizon; Hangin' Johnnie; The Longing That I Feel; The Stomach Robber; Below Niagara Falls; Voices Across the Water; We Have to Go Out; Rio Grande; The Mules that Walked the Fo'c's'le Deck; Queen of the Beach; Red Iron Ore/Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald; Shenandore; Let the Lower Lights be Burning 58:41

Great Lakes Chronicle
1998 Depot (DEP-022)
CD1: The Great Lakes Song; The Persia's Crew; Low Bridge, Everybody Down; Lost on the Lady Elgin; Queen of the Beach; The Mules That Walked the Fo'c's'le Deck; White Squall; Shores of Lake Michigan/May Day (Bannockburn); No Nets Will Be Found; The Christmas Ship 55:42
CD2: Cold Winds/Living Gale; Requiem for the Mesquite; Illinois & Michigan Canal; The Ghost of Red Monroe [recitation]; Watching Lake Michigan Roll; Banks of Cold Waters; Voices Across the Water; The Longing That I Feel; Safe in the Harbor; Encore: Christmas Medley 63:10

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