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Michael Martin Murphey

Cowboy Songs Four – 1998 (Valley Entertainment)

Reviewed by Tom Netherland

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CDs by Michael Martin Murphey

There are no "Wildfire's," but Michael Martin Murphey's latest collection of western tunes carries a brand all their own.

Standing out among the 15 tracks, 8 original, is "Song From Lonesome Dove." Written for the television mini-series of the same name, the plaintive ode stands well against the several covers included. So much so, you can almost envision Gene Autry singing it as he stared off into a waning sunset.

"Trail Song Medley," snippets of five western classics such as Autry and Smiley Burnett's "Ridin' Down The Canyon" and "Colorado Trail," gallops along with the ease of a lonesome cowboy and horse in search of another day. Murphey's duet with Lyle Lovett on the tall-haired one's "Farther Down The Line" perfectly captures the essence of a true cowboy.

Campfire carols ("Utah Carroll"), contemporary western rave-ups ("Born To Buck Bad Luck") and sprightly two-steppers ("The Bunkhouse Orchestra") illustrate the fact that western music can be quite diverse.

In an age of armchair cowboys and Garth Brooks sound-alikes, this trots along a much less traveled, though most interesting path.