Michael Martin Murphey & Ryan Murphey – Road Beyond the View
I’m familiar with Michael Martin Murphey. What’s peculiar about my appreciation is that back in the 70s I cared little about songs like “Wildfire,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac” or “Carolina in the Pines.” For some reason, I preferred his deep cuts — the ones few heard commercially. I liked singer-songwriters like him & had LPs by Michael Dinner (“Tom Thumb the Dreamer”), Andrew Gold (“What’s Wrong With This Picture?”) & Dan Fogelberg. It was a phase.
I rummaged through his LPs to find the dark chocolate delights & toss the vanilla cremes. I was never disappointed. Some tunes stood out. This new 36-minute CD recorded with his son has a few dark chocolates.
Produced by Michael & Ryan Murphey the 9-cut Road Beyond the View (Drops June 10–Independent) is a poignant & seasoned set. The title cut is an immediately confident delightful track inspired by the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe. It isn’t mainstream, commercial, or reaching back to the 70s – it’s just plain good with an inspired delivery. Vocally, at times, it sounds a bit like Jim Lampos (“All Saints Day, Paris”) who’s sculpted in a Murphey style.
Ryan plays a nylon-string classical Cordoba GK Studio, ’68 Fender Telecaster, ’47 Martin D-18, Eastman Uptown hollow body electric guitar, Fender steel-string acoustic & Bedell steel-string acoustic guitar & sings backup. These songs celebrate their first collaborative recorded effort.
Michael sounds excellent on this LP & plays a nylon-string classical Cordoba Iberia model GK Studio Negra guitar. As the CD progresses the “Road” song tradition regresses. The only misstep. There are moments where it dips heavily into a retro Les Paul-type guitar sound. Nostalgic at best, but it never sounds wrong or diminishes the songs.
A song like “La Plaza,” should’ve been placed more toward the end. Placement is poor, not the song. It’s like a maracas/samba but coming off “Road” & slows the momentum. The lyrics are good — it’s just the position that doesn’t work. The retro guitar stays for the shuffle of “Carson’s Way,” & with a lounge-jazzy arrangement played exceptionally well. “Blues For 66” at the end is a cool song & “Riversong,” restores the pastoral folk-country casual style Michael’s known for. Voice still as pristine as ever.
Light criticism aside, it’s a mature endeavor. “Gallery Row,” has intriguing tonality, intonation & phrasing. One of his best. Unlike many singer-songwriters of his technique, Michael always negotiates cautiously through musical pablum & performs solidly, reliably & with quality. His mixed genres work sometimes but that’s the challenge. His creative abilities are expressive, he sounds youthful & keeps his showcase interesting. That’s why I dig through his deeper cuts. What’s he hiding?
Players: Howard Hudiburg (acoustic/electric & fretless bass), John Hammond (drums/percussion) & Aaron Tudon (slide guitar on “Road”). Photo courtesy of MMM website. CD @ https://www.ridingwildfire.com/cowboy-songs-cd-download1626750815876