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Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

Jeri L. Dobrowski
For the June 26, 2010 edition of Tri-State Livestock News

When folks give me a CD for consideration, I’m up front with them. It’s likely going to be several weeks before I give it a listen. I like to play submissions from start to finish, devoting my full attention to the task at hand. It seems that I am invariably interrupted at home. Turns out, the best place for serious listening is in my car. A recent road trip provided the necessary quiet to get through several items.

While in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, I picked up Michael Martin Murphey’s Buckaroo Blue Grass and an advance copy of Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song. Many associate Murphey with the pop hits “Wildfire” and “Carolina in the Pines,” but he is the No.-1 best-selling cowboy music singer in the world. Murphey’s association with the cowboy genre began in 1990 with Cowboy Songs, which achieved Gold status. Not since Marty Robbins had a western album seen such popularity.

Buckaroo Blue Grass I and II (track lists at http://www.michaelmartinmurphey.com) include a good many of Murphey’s most recognizable compositions spanning the four decades he has toiled as a singer and songwriter. Mandolin, fiddle, banjo, bass and guitar meld the collection. It’s easy to see why Buckaroo Blue Grass was nominated for a Grammy!

I gleaned several things from the liner notes: At 19 years of age, Murphey wrote “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Around?,” which was recorded by the Monkees. He penned “Backslider’s Wine,” made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker. The station in “Cherokee Fiddle” is the Durango-to-Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad Station, the starting point for one of the most spectacular rail excursions you can take.

Buckaroo Blue Grass and Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song are priced at $15.98 each + shipping. Order online from http://www.murphsranchmarket.com; 877-734-2724; Wildfire Productions, Inc., 2516 Cedar Elm Lane, Plano, TX 75075.

A respected horseman, singer, and songwriter, Mike Beck’s latest album is entitled Feel. The clean lines of the handsome cover are indicative of the 12 tracks, performed by Beck with solo acoustic guitar accompaniment. The cover illustration, “A California Buckaroo,” is by the late Jo Mora.

Beck wrote all but “Poncho” (alternatively “Chopo”), credited to Jack Thorp; co-writing “In Old California” with the legendary Ian Tyson. That song and “Don’t Tell Me”- also on the album – were included in a list of “The 13 Best Cowboy Songs of All Time” appearing in the April 2009 issue of Western Horseman. (Find lyrics to both at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/mikebeck.htm)

Born and raised in Monterey County, California, Beck worked on the nearby Dorrance Ranch. “Patrick,” written as a tribute to the late Bill Dorrance, came from that experience. Today, Beck conducts horsemanship clinics across the West and abroad. He often plays a concert in conjunction with a clinic. Be on the lookout for him in Montana, as he has been known to spend time in the Big Sky Country. If you have a chance to catch Mike solo or with his band, The Bohemian Saints, don’t pass up the opportunity. Either way, you’re in for a grand evening of entertainment. (Check tour dates at http://www.mikebeck.com)

Preview Feel and/or order the album or individual tracks at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mikebeck4. The CD is priced at $12.97 + shipping; the album download is $11. Individual tracks are 99 cents.

While I’ve yet to see Paul Harris perform in person, I’ve heard a great deal about him from folks who have, and it’s all been good. At the urging of one of those individuals, Harris sent me a copy of his Cross Halo album. He wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 11 musical selections; there are also three original poems. I was surprised to see that one of his collaborators is Randy Huston. Huston got quite a bit of play on Willie’s Cowboy Gathering when Eddie Kilroy hosted the show on XM Radio Channel 13.

A native of Arkansas, Harris learned to play music in the bluegrass style from his grandfather. Drawn by the lure of cattle and horses, he made his way to the West as a young adult. Since then, he has worked as a packer and cowboy, most notably in Wyoming and New Mexico. (More at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/paulharris.htm)

Three songs stand out in my mind: the lively “Kelly Green,” “El Mejor Vaquero” with its moral of the story, and the celebratory “It Took New Mexico.” They have a rich and authentic flavor seasoned with originality and creativity. Listen to a selection of full-length songs at http://www.myspace.com/tmf3ph.

Cross Halo sells for $18; individual tracks are priced at 99 cents each. Order from http://paulharriscowboymusic.com/home.cfm

Submit books, recordings and films for consideration to Jeri L. Dobrowski, Cowboy Jam Session, 1471 Carlyle Rd S, Beach, ND 58621.


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