Rapid River Magazine - Michael Martin Murphey High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII

MMMFrom Rapid River Monthly

The original Cosmic Cowboy rides again with a surprisingly fresh collection of songs, proving decades after he first broke through with the hit “Wildfire” he still has plenty to say and the skill to say it: No longer the singular troubadour roaming horizons in search of elusive romance, Murphey instead turns his attention to such pressing issues as the environmental devastation of his beloved western plains.

On the moving “Campfire on the Road” he beseeches us to “never let them take this life away” and while that tale is set in Australia it might have just as easily have been Colorado. The inclusion of a pair of ballads by Tompall Glaser (“Running Gun”) and Marty Robbins (“Master’s Call”) shows that his taste is as finely tuned as his songwriting while the Celtic influence of “The End of the Road” gives evidence that Murphey hasn’t insulated himself to the musical world at large. Top notch stuff, one of the best of his long and storied career. 4 STARS

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LSM THROWBACK THURSDAY REVIEW

jpegOne of the greatest legends of Texas music isn’t a specific artist or band so much as it is a movement: the “Cosmic Cowboy” days of the 1970s, with its gravitational center in funkier-than-thou, cheaper- than-now Austin. More or less interchangeable with the “Outlaw Country” label that subsequent generations still aspire to carry on, it wove the adventurous spirit of hippie-friendly rock ’n’ roll into the rootsy sounds of country music and the enduring mythology of the American West. The magnetic pull of it shook burned-out drifter Jerry Jeff Walker (formerly Ron Crosby) out of his post-“Mr. Bojangles” Key West haze, boomeranged a successful but disillusioned songwriter named Willie Nelson back home from Nashville, and just as significantly — although his legacy hasn’t gotten as much ink in recent years — spurred a lonesome L.A. cowboy named Michael Murphey to get back to his Texas roots and make the most ambitious music of what would be a multifaceted and fairly fascinating career.

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Iconic Singer / Songwriter Michael Martin Murphey Brings Cowboy Music To Cheyenne Frontier Days

CHEYENNE, WYOMING — For the first time in more than 120 years, the historic Cheyenne Frontier Days will offer visitors a chance to hear authentic American Cowboy Music, courtesy of iconic Western singer / Songwriter Michael Martin Murphey, the top selling artist of the genre of all time.
 
From July 23 — 31 (with the exception of the 28th and 30th), Murphey will perform at the Sidewinder Saloon at the Old Frontier Town near the east side of the stadium where the 10-day Western Celebration hosts “The Daddy of ‘em All,” the world's largest outdoor rodeo.  In addition to a rodeo that draws the top professional cowboys competing for more than $1 million in cash and prizes, Cheyenne Frontier Days is a celebration of the western lifestyle. 
The Sidewinder Saloon is located in the Old Frontier Town, which highlights Western merchants, craftspeople, artisans, and even some special guest characters like Lillie Langtry, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickock and Wyatt Earp.   Murphey’s shows begin at 3 p.m. each day ( except on July 28 and 30when he will be in Red River, New Mexico).  On the 31st, he performs at The Sidewinder Saloon at noon. 
“This is definitely my wheelhouse,” Murphey said.  “I’ve been passionate about the cowboy culture my entire life, and having the chance to perform the songs that defined that world at this event is a huge honor for me.”
Best known for a genre busting career that includes topping the Pop, Country, Bluegrass and Western Music charts — with hits like “Wildfire,” “Carolina In The Pines,” “What’s Forever For,” “Boy From The Country,” “Cherokee Fiddle” and “Cowboy Logic” to name a few — Murphey is often credited with revitalizing the American Cowboy Music genre when in 1990 he bucked the system and released his first volume of Cowboy Songs album.   That album was the first so-themed album to do so since Marty Robbin’s 1959 classic, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. 
“Few people are dedicated to preserving the heritage and beauty of the American West quite like cowboy singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey,” wrote Cowboys & Indians Magazine. “Through his music he tells the stories and romance of the Native Americans, cowboys, horsemen, ranchers, outlaws, and lawmen. But Murphey has gone beyond storytelling through active involvement in the conservation of the relics and landscape that define his most treasured region.”
Murphey’s new album, High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII, speaks directly to his love of the western way of life, largely praising and extolling its importance in our world. 
“It may sound like an oxymoron, but  ‘Cowboy Culture’ is real and relevant,” Murphey says. “I celebrate men and women who love Dirt, Grass and Water.
“Truth is, cowboys and cowgirls can save the planet.”
Murphey himself has been a long-time activist and outspoken supporter of caring for land and water. Murphey was inspired by the work of noted Zimbabwean Ecologist, Dr. Alan Savory, who was a consultant to his  ranching partnership with Holistic Grazing pioneer Bert Madera of Jal, New Mexico.
“Grasslands sequester carbon,” Murphey explains. “Too much carbon in the atmosphere instead of the grass and soil is the real cause of climate change. Ranchers around the world are fighting leaving ground bare and managed grazing is a key way to do that.
"Real environmentalists are the men and women who spend their days working the land responsibly to ensure its health for generations to come.”
The message is so potent that when Murphey appeared at Earth Day Texas last year, the founder of the event, Trammel S. Crow, Jr. asked Murphey to become the Official Ambassador for their 2016 event, held in April in Dallas.
With Murphey Western Institute, they created the Grazing Land Restoration Initiative.
“Michael is more than an award-winning country western singer-songwriter,” said Crow. “He is also an avid steward of the culture and landscape of the American West.  We have a mutual interest in protecting the environment for future generations.”
Murphey returns to his singing cowboy roots on High Stakes to tell riveting human stories of love and hate, sin and redemption, loss and risk, failure and victory, revenge and forgiveness and family legacy.
From the rollicking notes of the title track "High Stakes", to the final notes of the lovely “The End of the Road,” Murphey celebrates the western lifestyle so well-dramatized by the passionate struggles of the grazing land cultures of the world who literally live and die by managing land and water.
Among the highlights are his take on John Williamson's “Three Sons,” and "Campfire on the Road,” Roger Creager’s “I’ve Got The Guns,” and Marty Robbins’ standards “Running Gun” and “Master’s Call.”
 The wonderful “Emilia Farewell” and “The End Of The Road” — both written with son, Ryan Murphey —are gorgeous traditional cowboy songs.  On the title track, also written with Ryan and third collaborator Pauline Reese, Murphey explains there is an urgency to his message: “You don’t understand the cards you’re holding and your hands start to shake / High Stakes.”                                                               

Little Joe The Wrangler

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