The Absolute Sound-Michael Martin Murphey High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII

On the seventh installment of his celebrated Cowboy Songs series, Michael Martin Murphey—long a for-real rancher in addition to being America’s foremost advocate for the cowboy in song and in his environmentally beneficial lifestyle—deploys his own tunes and complementary covers to construct a narrative of humans being formed, and transformed, by nature. Witness the latest of six generations of cattlemen bucking the odds of a dwindling market in the Irish-tinged “Three Sons”; the young man engulfed in “sinful living” who hears a divine voice calling him to the straight and narrow when the sky opened up while he was in the midst of rustling cattle, as recounted in a powerful reading of Marty Robbins’s classic Western melodrama-in-song, “Master’s Call”; the soul enriching virtues of living in the natural world chronicled in the thoughtful piano-and-fiddle-based ballad “Campfire On the Road,” in which Murph urges, “We must never let them take this life away.” Assaying another high-stakes issue, he addresses a relationship’s end in a tender, acoustic-based sayonara “The End of the Road.” Boasting sonics as clear and refreshing as the rivers running through some of these songs, High Stakes is a topical gamble offering an inspiring payoff. Take it. –-David McGee

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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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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