Michael Martin Murphey has always gone his own way. He has recorded pop, country, and rock records, but one of his first gigs was as lead singer for the Earl Scruggs Band. Over the years his songs have been bluegrass hits for artists including Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Seldom Scene, and the Country Gentlemen, and while this is his first official bluegrass outing, he's always included bluegrass pickers on his albums, even when he was making pop records. Since 1990 Murphey has been concentrating on cowboy music, and this album combines both genres to good effect. "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round?" was one of the first tunes Murphey ever wrote, and was covered by the Monkees on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Its bluegrass transformation includes Pat Flynn's solid acoustic guitar picking and Charlie Cushman's banjo. "Carolina in the Pines" is a Murphey tune that's been recorded by several bluegrass bands, and is delivered here in an arrangement marked by high lonesome harmonies, Cushman's driving banjo, and the fiddling of Andy Leftwich. "Fiddlin' Man" is another oldie, this one from Tonight We Ride, Murphey's first cowboy album; its Celtic feel is intensified by Leftwich's fiddle work. "Dancing in the Meadow" is another Celtic-flavored tune, with a bare-bones arrangement that gives the tune a spooky flavor. "Boy from the Country" was covered several times by John Denver and included on Murphey's first album. Here it gets a treatment that intensifies its melancholy melody. The album also includes two new Murphey tunes: "Lone Cowboy" has a catchy melody that combines pop, country, and bluegrass and sounds like a potential classic with hot fiddling by Leftwich and rippling banjo work by Cushman; "Close to the Land" is a ballad that Murphey adapted for the PBS documentary series America's Heartland, but this bluegrass version is more mellow, with a heartfelt vocal from Murphey and understated Dobro work by Mike Stidolph.
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AllMusic Review by AllMusic