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Review: Michael Martin Murphey, Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song

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Michael Martin Murphey
Buckaroo Blue Grass II – Riding Song
[Rural Rhythm (2010)]

Texas Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee Michael Martin Murphey may be the latest country music superstar to embrace musical traditions, but, with “Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song,” his second collection of bluegrass-ized reinterpretations, the ex-leader of 1960s country-rock pioneers, the Lewis and Clark Expedition continues to find that the roots provide the most effective setting for his songs. Though an overly sappy arrangement of his ode to a horse, “Wildfire,” provided him with one of the top pop tunes of the mid-1970s, and his greatest success as a singer. Murphey has always leaned closer to the traditional sounds of the Lone Star state than to realm of commercial pop music. With his return to the scaled down blend of bluegrass, country, cowboy, and Americana that made his album, “Buckaroo Blue Grass,” a Grammy nominee in 2009, the Austin-born tunesmith has produced perhaps his greatest work..

With masterful playing by Pat Flynn (guitar), Ronny McCoury and Sam Bush (mandolin), Charli Cushman (banjo), Andy Lefwich (fiddle), Rob Ickes (dobro), and Craig Nelson (bass), Murphey’s songs about gunslingers, Native Americans, trains, and, of course, horses, sparkle anew. “Tonight We Ride” and “Running Blood” come from recent albums, and a cover of the Glaser Brothers’ “Running Gun” is included, but the CD mostly resurrects and reinvents tunes from Murphey’s early-to-mid-1970s recordings. Highlights include new versions of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band-covered “Cosmic Cowboy,” the Jerry Jeff Walker and Gary Stewart-covered “Backslider’s Wine,“ and a solo rendition of “Swans Against The Sun,” originally recorded in 1976 as a duet with John Denver. Hard-hitting country-rocker “Renegade,’ benefits from the stripped-down sound, while “Wildfire” is given new life as a duet with Carrie Haskins.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

© 2010 DriftwoodMagazine.com, All rights reserved.

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