In the early 1970s, Rolling Stone Magazine called Michael Martin Murphey “one of the best songwriters in America.” Since that time, Murphey has left an indelible mark on the American music landscape crafting and recording such iconic hits as “Wildfire,” “Carolina In The Pines,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Cowboy Logic,” “Cherokee Fiddle,” “Boy From The Country” and more. In the process, he has topped the Pop, Country, Bluegrass and Western Music charts, earned six gold albums and multiple Grammy nominations.
Murphey will take the stage in Minden at the Carson Valley Inn Casino, 1627 Highway 395, on Thursday. Tickets are $29-$35. For information, call 782-9711 or visit www.carsonvalleyinn.com.
Through all the chart-jumping and genre-busting, Murphey has remained constant to an honest, sophisticated approach to his songwriting. His new Red River Drifter is a collection that draws from a deep well of eclectic influences ranging from classical to country, blues to bluegrass, pop to western. In fact, it’s simply impossible to pigeon-hole Murphey to one specific genre. He is no more country than rock, no more bluegrass than classical. He is, rather, a true American songwriter.
“What I’ve written over the years has always reflected what was influencing me at the time,” says Murphey. “This album is a return to those days when I was influenced by everything. Right now, some really interesting , intricate melodies are coming to me.”
A native Texan, Murphey’s songs have always reflected his lifestyle, and are understandably seen through a Western lens, often built on outdoor themes with the sensibilities of his cowboy lifestyle. From the first notes of the bluegrass-driven “Peaceful Country,” Red River Drifter takes listeners on a journey through the broad spectrum of music Murphey absorbs while traveling from city to city — up to 200 dates a year — from coast to coast.
At the core of his music is a stubborn determination to be the best songwriter he can be, a focus that has led to his songs being covered by such artists as Lyle Lovett, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Hoyt Axton, The Monkees and more. “I spend a lot of time on the road listening to all kinds of music,” he says. “I grew up in Texas, the world’s No. 1 musical crossroads where anything goes musically. Texas has produced great artists from every genre. You can wake up and say ‘today, I think I’ll write a symphony’ and you can find an audience for it there. The same can be said about any genre in music. Texans love music. They enjoy opera and they enjoy bluegrass. I am a product of that, and I am the No. 1 fan of all types of music.”
Red River Drifter was produced by guitar ace Pat Flynn and Ryan Murphey, who has produced Murphey’s last three albums. The majority of the songs were written while the group was working a month-long series of shows in Colorado. “We had a great place to sit on the back porch and look out at the mountains. It was like sitting there like an eagle on a perch looking at life.”
It is an approach that has worked well for Murphey. According to BMI, Murphey has 5 million-performance songs — “Wildfire” (3.9 million), “Cherokee Fiddle” (1.92 million), “Carolina In The Pines” (1.65 million), “Talking To The Wrong Man” (1.21 million), “Still Takin’ Chances” (1.2) — and a total of 11 award-winning BMI songs (six in country and five in pop). Also, according to BMI, repeat, back-to-back performances of his award winning songs alone, with each song averaging three minutes each, would amount to 64 years of continuous airplay.