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Michael Martin Murphey and Ryan Murphey (from the album Road Beyond the View on Wildfire Productions Inc) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Michael Martin Murphey has been hailed for any number of accomplishments, and rightfully so. Aside from the fact that he helped popularize the genre that came to be known as ‘Cowboy Country’, he also scored a number of singles that successfully found placement on the pop charts, — among them, “Geronimo’s Cadillac“, “Wildfire”, “Carolina in the Pines”, and “What’s Forever For” in particular. His dedication to preserving America’s western musical heritage has kept him engaged ever since, more or less branding him as a proponent of authentic Americana.
That said, his new album, Road Beyond the View -- a first collaboration with his son, Ryan Murphey, a skilled guitarist in his own right — will likely surprise some fans, and in more than a few cases, leave listeners utterly baffled. Aside from the melodious opening offering — which also serves as the album’s title track — there’s little here that suggests any connection whatsoever to the elder Murphey’s earlier endeavors. It’s a set of songs wholly dominated by a gentle jazz tapestry, from the samba and sway of the lilting “La Plaza” and the supple sashay of “Gallery Row”, to the mellow meandering and lithe acoustic guitar found in “Golden Summertime” and “Carson’s Way”. Many of the sounds bring to mind a decided south of the border ambience, but most of the melodies also adhere to a lounge-like set-up, unhurried and unembellished due to a twilight tempo.
Like any good dad, the elder Murphey is obviously intent on helping his boy get a big break, and what better way of doing so than to find the music divvied up between father and son. They share writing credits for all the songs save one, “Lady Sunhawk”, which was written solely by Ryan ‘with inspiration from Michael’. So, while Michael himself is responsible for all the lead vocals, Ryan’s impeccable playing is also found at the fore. Both men seem equally at home in these Jazz-lite realms, and were it not for the fact that the name Michael Martin Murphey is up on the marquee, the credits might easily be mistaken for an artist well served by a cocktail connection.
Sadly, the shock of hearing Michael Martin Murphey outside his traditional template may prove too great a distraction for his erstwhile admirers. Which is a shame. If judged only on its own merits, Road Beyond the View represents a pleasant path forward. (By Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Michael Murphey and Ryan Murphey from AMAZON
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