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Cowboy Songs

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Album Review

The first of three albums of cowboy material by Michael Martin Murphey, and one of the better modern collections. Murphey approaches his material with both reverence and humor, which makes this disc less serious than many more grimly authentic efforts. For repertory he draws on the songs of Bob Nolan ("Tumbling Tumbleweeds"), Dale Evans ("Happy Trails"), and Ian Tyson ("Cowboy Pride"); traditional songs that were recorded by the likes of Tex Ritter ("I Ride an Old Paint," "Jack o' Diamonds"), Carl T. Sprague ("When the Work's All Done This Fall"), and Powder River Jack and Kitty Lee ("Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail"); a few of a more general nature, such as the gorgeous "Wild Ripplin' Waters"; and a handful of originals, of which the best is "What Am I Doing Here," which acknowledges the spiritual side of cowboy songs. Murphey doesn't imitate any of the singers associated with earlier versions of these songs in terms of delivery or arrangements, but he does try for a rough-hewn authenticity in his singing, laced with a certain amount of humor, which makes it all the more effective. The backing vocals are provided by Sons of the San Joaquin, and by Tammy Wynette, Red Steagall, Suzy Bogguss, Jim Bob Tinsley, Paulette Carson, Cactus Moser, and others. It was this record that led to the founding of the Warner Western label.


Born: 14 March 1945 in Dallas, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In many ways, Michael Martin Murphey has the career that Michael Nesmith of the Monkees -- with whom Murphey performed early in both of their careers -- might have had if he had never been picked for the NBC series. A guitarist/songwriter, Murphey led the country-rock group the Lewis & Clarke Expedition in the mid- to late '60s and had some pop success, and even got one song, "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?," recorded by the Monkees (with Nesmith singing lead, natch). His songs were cut by the likes...
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Cowboy Songs, Michael Martin Murphey
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