Michael Martin Murphey has spent much of the past couple of decades focusing primarily on cowboy songs, both with originals and covering classics. On "Red River Drifter," the western feel is still prominent, but Murphey also reveals bluegrass, country, pop and jazz influences on a collection of new compositions.
Murphey's reverence for the outdoors remains intact with the up-tempo bluegrass track Peaceful Country, on which son Ryan Murphey shines on mandolin. The ominous bluegrass ballad Mountain Storm compares the volatility of a relationship to that of a storm ("Love is unforeseen and strange/It's only constant in its change/It needs the thunder, it needs the still/It needs the heat, it needs the chill").
Secret Smile and The Gathering are reminiscent of Murphey's country pop hits such as What's Forever For and What She Wants. Elsewhere the bouncy Rolling Sky and wistfulFaded Blue have a jazz feel, while the closing tune Unfinished Symphony has a classical touch.
Perhaps the strongest track is the bluesy Shake It Off, a catchy duet with Pauline Reese that humorously extols the virtues of perseverance with such observations as "no food on the table and they're shutting off the cable/Buddy won't you shake it off."
Murphey's pleasant vocals are nicely supported throughout by Ryan and guitarist Pat Flynn, who also co-produced the album and share writing credits with Murphey on all 10 tracks. In addition to Reese, other contributors are Jason Mowry (fiddle), Troy Engle (fiddle, banjo), Matt Pierson (bass) and Bobby Blazier (drums).
While recent efforts have been largely nostalgic with Murphey's devotion to western music, as well as revisiting some of his own classics such as Wildfire, Geronimo's Cadillac and What Am I Doing Hangin' Round, this contemporary collection nicely augments Murphey's impressive catalog.