Willie Nelson on new Michael Martin Murphey album

by: Andrew Dansby

Michael Martin Murphey ropes Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett for new album

Michael Martin Murphey is going back in time, which is not terribly unusual considering his discography full of old cowboy songs, both historic and original. For his new album, though, he left wide open spaces behind for a collection of songs largely drawn from the late-1960s and 1970s in Austin, where he was part of a vibrant music scene.

The record is fittingly titled “Austinology: Alleys of Austin.” It’s out Oct. 5.

Murphey mixes up some of his own ’70s songs (“Alleys of Austin,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Cosmic Cowboy”) with some by contemporaries like a trio of late greats: Guy Clark (“LA Freeway”), Townes Van Zandt (“Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria”) and Steven Fromholz (“Texas Trilogy”).

Murphey put together a broad guest list for the record. It includes some peers like Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. And it includes all manner of next-gen singers and songwriters like Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison and Randy Rogers.

And, yes, it will include “Wildfire,” with Amy Grant guesting.

“This album is not just about my songs,” Murphey said. “It’s about what makes a great song, a song that stands the test of time, a song that has a shot of living on in the Great American Songbook tradition.”

Dallas native Murphey was among the more successful of the outsider country singers who sprung from Austin in the 1970s. His music crossed over to a pop audience, with four songs — “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Wildfire,”¬†“Carolina in the Pines” and “Renegade” — breaking into the Top 40 in the 1970s.

When Lovett in 1998 made an album of some of his favorite songs by Texas-based songwriters he included Murphey’s “West Texas Highway.”

His last pop hit came in 1982, when “What’s Forever For” reached No. 19. But it topped the country charts, territory Murphey staked out for the rest of the decade. Around that time he delved deep into old cowboy songs, which has been the foundation of his touring act since.


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