I love Christmas Music (and a new playlist)

The holidays are upon us, which means the radio in my car is often tuned to 97.1 Wash FM. It is saved in my car’s radio memory solely for the month of December. I love the Christmas season because of what it could be, what it should be. I love that right now, I’m sitting in my living room with Becky sitting across from me and a Christmas tree obstructing my view out the window. I am really looking forward to my favorite Christmas traditions: 8th Annual Little Drummer Boy at Revolution (Dec 17!), Presents with the kids on Christmas morning, driving to Pittsburgh (yes, I’m even looking forward to that), and spending time with my grandmother, my parents and my brother.

I also love the nostalgia of Christmas time. For me, there is something about the aesthetic of Christmas that hearkens to good times gone by. It conjures false memories of anachronistic settings with Bing Crosby singing songs by a fire while How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) plays on a nearby TV surrounded by children in matching pajamas. Lights twinkle on outdoor bushes and a plastic Santa Claus and reindeer sit upon the apex of the roof. These are places I’ve never been but the nostalgic pieces of my brain can readily craft.

I don’t have anything against people who start listening to Christmas music around Halloween or even all-year round. For some people, like me, Christmas music, even bad Christmas music, is as comforting as a warm blanket. I personally don’t start listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving because I am a pleasure delayer. Forcing myself to wait makes those first few chords of Frank Sinatra’s Jingle Bells so very much sweeter.

So, raise your mug of egg nog or mulled wine. Here’s to Christmas! Cheers!

Here’s a Merry Christmas playlist for you with songs I love and why I love them.

2016 – The Murphys at Green Street Gardens
  1. August Burns Red – O Come O Come Emmanuel – Holy smoke. Everything about this is awesome, but I particularly love the timing and the bass tones.
  2. The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping – Listen to that bass line!!
  3. Straight No Chaser – 12 Days of Christmas – It makes me laugh. Anyone incorporating Toto into their music is okay by me.
  4. Elvis – Blue Christmas – First, his voice is amazing. Second, the background vocals are awesome.
  5. Bad Religion – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Punk rock, sort of irreverent, but still some great harmonies
  6. Louis Armstrong – Christmas in New Orleans – I’ve never been in New Orleans during Christmas, but this song makes e want to see at Dixieland Santa Claus leading a band to a good old creole beat.
  7. Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis – This line: “Rhymes so loud and proud you hear it. It’s Christmas time and we got the spirit.”
  8. Ludacris – Ludacrismas – Because I love Ludacris.
  9. Elmo & Patsy – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer – Catchy, funny and honky tonk. What’s not to like?
  10. David DeBoy – Crabs for Christmas – Because Baltimore! My Christmas Wish’ll Come True

I also love Mele Kalikimaka and basically anything by Bing Crosby. Really, I love tons of Christmas songs. These are just some fun ones to give you something to listen to. I hope they bring you joy.

What is your favorite Christmas song?


How do you get the garbage out? (early 90s playlist)

In 1995, I was a high school freshman, and my mom and dad did something that would end up being a defining moment in my life. They bought me a black, pointy, Washburn Lyon bass with a ten-inch Park practice amp. I’d fallen head over heels in love with music in the preceding couple years, and the trombone I had been playing just wasn’t cutting it when it came to satisfying the visceral need to rock out I had started feeling.


Now, 22 years later, “bassist” is one of my favorite titles. I have played with a lot of different bands, but my favorites have been: Here Today, This Boy’s Trouble, Sweet Old Etc., The Good Old-Fashioned Rodeo, Tanager, and the to-be-named Susanne Leach/Pat Myers/Matt Murphy project. A few weeks ago, I played a show with Tanager and left every ounce of energy, pent-up frustration, manic excitement on that stage in a swinging, jumping, sweaty, bloody performance.


The two main ways I get out the things that pollute my psyche are playing and creating music and running, and now that it’s getting colder, it is harder and harder to motivate myself to go for a run. I hate being cold. So, music it is. I think it is important that people know how to get the garbage self-doubt, toxic unwarranted shame, painful anxiety out. Otherwise, we end up walking around with greasy jars filled with them and they weigh us down, slow us down, and it gets harder and harder to get out of bed, harder and harder to be the person you know you’re supposed to be.


Sometimes, when I forget about how to clear my own garbage out, I go back and listen to the music that first inspired me to become a bassist.


Check out this playlist:


  1. Nirvana – Sappy (1993)
  2. Nine Inch Nails – March of the Pigs (1994)
  3. Rollins Band – Liar (1995)
  4. Stone Temple Pilots – Silvergun Superman (1994)
  5. Smashing Pumpkins – Jellybelly (1995)
  6. Metallica – My Friend of Misery (1991) – Seriously, the bass tone on this one!!
  7. Primus – Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers (1991)
  8. Rancid – Salvation (1994)
  9. NOFX – Dying Degree (1993)
  10. Alice in Chains – Dam that River (1992)


Honorable Mention:


  1. Faith No More – Epic (1989)
  2. Offspring – Killboy Powerhead (1994)
  3. Jane’s Addiction – Mountain Song (1988)
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Mellowship Slinky in B Major (1991)
  5. Pearl Jam – Animal (1993)
  6. Silverchair – Israel’s Son (1995) – Seriously mean bass tones on this one!
  7. Rage Against the Machine – Take the Power Back  (1995) – All the tone!
  8. The Cure – Burn (1994)
  9. Pantera – Walk (1992)
  10. Megadeth – Angry Again (1993)


I could go on and on, but I won’t.


Here are all the basses I have owned (or still own) ranked from my favorite to least favorite.


  1. 1994 G&L ASAT with hipshot tuner (still own)
  2. 1964 Fender Precision Bass (stolen)
  3. 1999 Music Man Sterling Bass (returned to person who let me use for a few years)
  4. 2014 Epiphone Jack Casady (still own)
  5. 2016 Kala U-Bass (still own)
  6. 1991 MIM Fender Jazz Bass (still own)
  7. 2003 Schecter Diamond 5 String (sold)
  8. 2016 Squier Jaguar 5 string (still own)
  9. 2010 Squier Bronco bass (returned to person who let me use for a few years)
  10. 1994 Washburn Lyon (destroyed rock star style on my parents’ driveway)



Happy Birthday to Ariella! (Plus a Playlist)

Today, Ariella turns ten years old. She is my first child, my beautiful daughter, my life-altering love, the one I affectionately and increasingly inaccurately call, “Little.” Inspired by a sermon, Becky and I chose to have children earlier than we had originally planned, and I couldn’t be happier that we made that decision. Now, a full two-thirds of the time Becky and I have been together (13 years of marriage and 2 years of dating) has been spent as parents. More than 25% of my life has been as “Daddy.”



It’s difficult to wrap my head around what the last decade of my life, the first decade of Ariella’s life, has meant. It has been a decade of laughter, exhaustion, celebration, frustration, excitement, and fear. It has been a decade of learning and relearning what it means to not be selfish. It has been a decade learning, usually from Ariella, what heartfelt conscientiousness really looks like. My Little has been the most impactful, demanding and rewarding teacher I have ever had.


When Ariella was born, in 2007, I was working at a call center, hating my job but feeling like (maybe fearing?) I was going to be there forever. I had no role model in my life for changing jobs. Fortunately, God stepped in, and I ended up with a new job, in a new state. Now, I’m working for my fourth employer since she was born, and I’ve had Lord knows how many titles. And yet, all that accomplishment is nothing in comparison to watching Ariella develop into a respectful, funny, smart and deeply caring person.


She is more resilient and has greater perseverance than either her mother or myself. We are on our sixth home since she was born. Ariella, a fourth-grader, is in her third elementary school and is constantly, easily making new friends. It is inspiring. Ariella has had straight A’s nearly every quarter and sets specific goals with intentional action steps to reach those goals and earn the rewards that come with her accomplishments. She is competitive, but more interested in ensuring fun, fair play than winning. She is ambitious, but she wants to see others come along with her rather than using them to advance. She is patient, but eager. She is confident but servant-hearted.


Somehow, at this point in life, the positive traits that she has inherited from her mother and I are untainted by their negative cousins: Ambition/Manipulation, Competition/Selfishness, Eagerness/Impatience. Being around her shines a bright light on the dark spots of those traits in my life and how they impact my relationships. Knowing Ariella helps me to develop better relationships.


She is not good at keeping her room clean. Like, really not good at that. That’s probably something she inherited from me along with a penchant for irrational fears and over concern with safety and rule-following. I hope these sometimes-negative inherited traits are overcome by rational evaluation and more than anything a joyous passion for living life to its fullest. I know that I am confronting  my irrational fears because I want her to see a life freed from being afraid.


Baptizing Ariella two weeks ago was an amazing moment of reflection for me as her father, and today, celebrating a decade of her life has amplified that reflection. I thank God for how I am learning from her. I thank God that it’s me and no one else that gets to be called “Daddy” by her here on Earth. I, probably inappropriately, feel like you should be envious of such an amazing kid being MY daughter and not yours. That’s a joke, I think.


I pray that God will continue to make His presence known in Ariella’s life and that the Holy Spirit works in her in powerful ways that will change the lives of the people who come to know Ariella like it has changed and is changing my life.


Here are ten songs that make me think of Ariella because she loves them:


  1. Katy Perry – Roar
  2. Britt Nicole – Gold
  3. Stellar Kart – Be Our Guest
  4. Kirsten Arian – Invincible
  5. Chris Tomlin – Good, Good Father
  6. Sylvan Esso – HSKT
  7. Paramore – Ain’t it Fun
  8. Hollyn – Alone
  9. Beckah Shae – I’ll Be Alright
  10. Taylor Swift – Welcome to New York

And one song that makes me think of Ariella because she hates it:

Frozen – Let it Go

Songs to Ruin Your Makeup (Playlist 4 – 18Sept2017)

I’ve never been a person who pauses for a “good cry.” I’ve cried a little more since Ariella was born almost ten years ago, but in those years, I’ve only had a handful of cries. Quick aside: the first time I can remember crying after Ariella was born was watching a commercial during a Ravens game that featured a dad and his grown daughter. I don’t remember what it was for, but I remember wiping away tears and thinking, “What in the world is going on?!?”

I just don’t shed many tears, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get moved deeply. I often feel the welling of deep emotions that feel like they should lead to tears even though none come.

I think it is important to be moved deeply. I think we should strive to feel the heights and depths of our emotions. Sometimes that means being sad. Having a “good cry” or whatever that looks like for you will help you feel the heights of joy more acutely. I believe it will help you enjoy the high points more thoroughly.

When I feel a little down, I tend to medicate myself by watching funny YouTube clips and snippets from the Graham Norton show, but eventually, I get numb to them and they don’t make me laugh anymore. That’s when I know I need to let myself feel without interference even if it means feeling sad. Those are the times, I turn on certain playlists or albums, get my pen and notebook and experience thoroughly…

It works. And science agrees. http://www.sciencealert.com/new-research-reveals-the-pain-and-pleasure-of-listening-to-sad-music

I’ve been working on this playlist for three weeks because sometimes I listen to these songs over and over again and get distracted from completing the list. This list isn’t even close to exhaustive, but these are songs that help me get to that raw, vulnerable place where I can have my version of a good cry. 

What makes you cry? What songs should I add to this list?

Glen Campbell – I’m Not Gonna Miss You (written after being diagnosed with Alzheimers)

Citizens & Saints – Oh God

Johnny Cash – Help Me (and basically his last two records)

Brilliance – Lord Please Save Me

Nirvana – Pennyroyal Tea (Unplugged)

Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven

Alice and Chains – Nutshell (Unplugged)

mewithoutYou – The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room

Brand New – Jesus Christ

Dolly Parton – Jolene

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

What you don’t always see (Playlist 4 – 30Aug2017)

What you see and hear is only the final product. When a new church is planted, there are so many hands, ideas that go into it. When a new album is released, there are so many people bleeding, sweating and crying during its creation. You see Justin Timberlake, but there are lots of fingerprints on what you hear (and what you see if you’re really honest). You see Revolution with Josh preaching, but there are lots of fingerprints on what you are seeing. Justin Timberlake is brilliant and talented for sure. Josh is an amazing visionary leader, absolutely. But before their talents get to the “stage,” there are a lot of other people engaging their presentation.

My must-do is to maximize church planting by leading and bringing clarity (and strategy) to the leaders I serve. I may not be the front or tip top person, but I am still a leader, not a cog. When I don’t feel like an essential, unique piece of the machine, I don’t feel like I’ve tried hard enough. When I can’t see my fingerprints on the finished product, I know I haven’t done what I was designed to do.

This second-chair, behind-the-scenes, but no less hardcore leadership has always been fascinating to me. I think that is why I have always loved learning about producers of records. I lament that my kids won’t be able to sit in their bedrooms with the doors closed, music up loud enough for the whole house to hear, reading through the liner notes of their music. I did that, and like I said in my first playlist a month ago, I learned.

If I heard a record I liked, I would find what else the producer did. I consumed Rick Rubin. I consumed Bob Rock. I consumed Butch Vig. I consumed George Martin, Phil Spector, Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Aaron Sprinkle… You get the point. Producers’ fingerprints are all over the finished product. You can tell when bands change producers. Listen to Metallica’s …And Justice For All, Load, and Death Magnetic. Three producers, three radically different sounds.


The infrastructure of all good things extends below what you see on the surface. Knowing where you fit and leading in that place without jealousy or envy and with a spirit of cooperation and excitement for the product is a joy. I hope to continue to serve and lead like this for the rest of my life. I hope that I can do this in the church planting community forever and make beautiful “music” with a great team.

As Napster and digital music got more popular, I read less liner notes, so I haven’t been great in recent years following producers. One producer though, I followed inadvertently and only learned after the fact that it was his fingerprints on a ton of records I love (including my favorite all time: …And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid). Jerry Finn was behind so much music from the late 90s and early to mid 2000s that I absolutely love. His fingerprints are magical. I can hear him as a thin line connecting all these songs I love. I hope to have a fraction of his legacy and recognizability in my field.

Here is a Jerry Finn playlist (the link is from Amazon because one of the essential songs on this list isn’t available on Apple Music). I limited it to songs he has producing credits. There is no way I could narrow it down if I include every album he worked on. There are too many amazing records on that list.

Who is behind the things you love most? If you don’t know, you have room to love it even more, and that is exciting!

Sometimes it’s better with the lights off…(Playlist #3 23Aug2017)

First of all, get your mind out of the gutter, you sickos.

The music I like the most, regardless of the genre (see the last playlist) moves me. There is something, usually hard to put your finger on, that strikes a heartstring and vibrates a complementary frequency with my soul. I like to let those songs crash over me like a wave. Some of them gently lifting me, some undermining my footing and burying me in the sand inch by inch and some slamming me down, taking my feet out from under me and leaving me gasping for breath. And each experience is wonderful.

While I listen to music all the time, I’ve found there are specific places where different songs are more easily experienced as the crashing wave. Sometimes, it’s while I’m cooking dinner (Sinatra, Satchmo, etc.). Sometimes, it’s while I’m driving (Metallica, As Cities Burn, etc.). Sometimes, it’s while I’m running (Rancid, Bob Dylan, etc.). Sometimes, it’s in a dark room, on my back, eyes closed, arms spread wide.


All music should be tested against this method. It allows you to get inside the song; feel the raw emotion of the voice lost when contrasting against road noise; feel the scrape of dry, calloused fingers against vibrating guitar strings; feel the earthiness of the bass. I’m ready to turn the lights off, how about you?

While all music should be experienced this way, this playlist has songs on it that for some reason always make me want to turn the lights off, lay down and listen…really listen…and absorb.

In no particular order:


  1. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – Moth to a Flame
  2. Battles – FF Bada
  3. Sylvan Esso – Play it Right
  4. Alkaline Trio – Blue in the Face (and everything else off Good Mourning)
  5. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
  6. Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Airplane Over the Sea
  7. The Postal Service – This Place is a Prison
  8. John Mark McMillan – Mercury and Lightning
  9. The National – Blood Buzz Ohio
  10. Nirvana – Something in the Way


What do you listen to with the lights off? What do you think of this playlist?

Today’s hidden track!

I listen to everything except (10 Aug 17 Playlist)

“For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5:14 (The Message)

One of the first things I ask most people I’m just meeting is what kind of music they listen to. I have found that a slight majority of people are pretty indiscriminate in their music taste. In other words, they like what they like but can’t really articulate what it is they like. These are the kinds of people who mostly use music as a background feature. They aren’t the people like me who can turn all the lights off in a room, lie on the floor and listen to whole records.

There is another very small segment that answers, “I don’t really listen to music.” I don’t get that at all, so I’m not going to address it.

I am going to address another, very common answer to the “What kind of music do you listen to” question. That is, “I listen to everything…except country and rap.”

My cowboy boots and flat-bill cap (on top of my gloriously trashed Ampeg HLF 410)

I think that is a dumb answer. First of all, you don’t listen to “everything.” How’s that zither music going? Don’t you love jamming out to Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Second, it is close-minded. There are so many micro-genres within both country and rap. How do you really know you don’t like it? That’s like me saying I don’t like rock and roll because I don’t like Nickelback. Praise God, not all rock and roll sounds like Nickelback. Open your minds! I talk about this and more in a post from 2012 that you can read HERE.

Also, I recently read this fantastic article on of my college friends, Sylvan, posted on Facebook that was the real inspiration of this blog. I can’t express this sentiment as well as the article does, so please read it, too. Here are some thoughts from the article.

In regards to why listening to country is “so bad:” “Because it represents something that anyone looking to maintain or elevate their class status doesn’t want to associate themselves with. To admin you like country music is admitting you like something inherently and purely working class, which jeopardizes your status as middle class.”

“Country and hip hop are seen as extremes: one very conservative, religions and traditional, and the other vulgar and violent…These blanket statement topics are how the cultural majority is taught to interpret these genres. There’s no discussion that these are very rich groupings of music, with many vibrant sub-genres of their own.”

“Not being able to appreciate a song because you refuse to listen to it means you miss the subtleties, the humor, the craft and tradition of an entire genre. Do you really like everything, or do you just like everything you’re told to?”

That last line is a doozy! I try hard to find things in every genre that I love, like truly love. In a future post, I will talk about some of the ingredients that go into songs I love. In addition to Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, which I love, here is a playlist of country and rap songs that I love. Enjoy!


Presented in alphabetical order by artist:

Chance the Rapper – All We Got (featuring Kanye West & Chicago Children’s Choir)
Dwight Yoakam – Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day
Ernest Tubb – Drivin’ Nails in my Coffin
Jason Isbell – Palmetto Rose
Jurassic 5 – Quality Control
KRS-One – Step Into a World (Rapture’s Delight)
Lords of the Underground – Grave Digga
The Roots – My Shot (featuring Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz)
Whitey Morgan – Another Wine
Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Shooter Jennings & Jamey Johnson – Highwayman (Live)

What music are you listening to?

What genres do you need some help in exploring? I’d love to be your guide!

What biases (musical or otherwise) has your upbringing built in you?




Today’s “Hidden Track” (The middle ground between punk and country).