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Michael Martin Murphey

Austinology - Alleys of Austin – 2018 (Soundly)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Michael Martin Murphey

Michael Martin Murphey reflects on the rise of the Austin music scene by revisiting several of his own tunes and covering some of his favorite writers with mostly good results in this star-studded effort. Amongst the stronger remakes of Murphey compositions are "Geronimo's Cadillac," on which Murphey is joined by Steve Earle, and "Backslider's Wine" with Randy Rogers. Another standout cut is "Drunken Lady of the Morning" featuring Lyle Lovett.

Some of Murphey's songwriting heroes saluted include Guy Clark with the excellent "LA Freeway" with the Last Bandoleros, as well as Murphey's effective solo take on the Townes Van Zandt ballad "Quicksilver Daydream of Maria." Perhaps the best cover is Jerry Jeff Walker's "Little Bird," nicely augmented with harmonies from Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison.

Several tunes feature multiple contributors lending their voices including the opening title track, which has Willie Nelson and Gary P. Nunn (who co-wrote "South Canadian River Song" with Murphey) along with Lovett, Rogers, Willis and Robison. Each of those also appear on "Cosmic Cowboy" with additional all-star support from Walker, his son Django Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band's Bob Livingston.

Martin's voice does show some signs of age, including on the ballad "Texas Morning" and the yodeling at the end of "Cosmic Cowboy." The one collaboration that does not work is on the Murphey's biggest hit, "Wildfire" with Amy Grant's vocal not blending well at all with Murphey's. The disappointing aspect of the bittersweet ballad "Honolulu," which finds Murphey reminiscing about a childhood trip to visit his grandfather in Hawaii, is that it is not available on the cd, but only on vinyl and digital download.

With Murphey's pleasant vocals, well chosen covers and stellar support throughout, this collection suitably documents the contributions of Murphey and his contemporaries to progressive country music.