Lone Cowboy: Live & Solo

Michael Martin Murphey

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Lone Cowboy: Live & Solo Review

by Thom Jurek

Fans of modern cowboy singer and songwriter Michael Martin Murphey will more than likely delight in this bare-bones solo concert recorded at the Western Jubilee Warehouse in Colorado Springs in 2008. Accompanied only by his acoustic guitar -- he’s become a fine picker over the last four decades -- Murphey runs through a program consisting mainly of his own songs with some traditional cowboy numbers thrown in for good measure. Many of the hits are here, from the opening medley of the title track paired with “Carolina in the Pines,” followed by two more. One melds “Partner in the Wind” and Bob Nolan’s nugget “Cool Water”; the latter includes two well-known cowboy campfire songs done in Murphey’s own unique arrangement: “Little Joe the Wrangler” and a a spooky a cappella reading of “Oh Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” From there, with one exception, it’s all Murphey’s material. Sure, “Wildfire”’s here, but in 2010 it means something other than it did in the mid-'70s. What’s most appealing about this set is how intimate and unvarnished it is (there are missed chords, some flat notes, etc.). Murphey can’t hit the same high notes he did once upon a time, but the graininess in his voice is welcome, because it adds so much to his lyrics and melodies. Somehow, however, that makes the music more authentic, and the emotion in his performances doesn’t feel staged. Songs like “Vanishing Breed,” “Long Lonesome Road to Dalhart,” and “Close to the Land,” without their regal orchestral backing, as they are his Cowboy Symphonies, take on the gift Murphey displayed on his earliest records: that of a real storyteller.

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