Michael Martin Murphey kicks up his heels right from the starting gun in this companion to his first set of righteous bluegrass compositions (here). As time passes, he's finding himself more and more a statesman in the widening Americana genre, and that's only as should be. However, there are a few surprises in Vol. 2 that I suspect consumers of Vol. 1 aren't going to quite expect.
Blue Sky Riding Song nonetheless gets the listener right in the mood, a hi-energy, boot-scootin', yee-haw cut with Flynn fingerpicking like there's no tomorrow astride a bewitching fiddle from Andy Leftwich. Anyone who doesn't feel like cutting up a mean rug upon hearing both these guys is already half-dead, so forget 'em and get up outta yer seat your own self. A number of old M.M.M. hits make a re-appearance, including the monster charter Wildfire, but the running commentary penned by Murphey in the liner notes is quite interesting above that. He amiably reveals a number of elements in his spirituality that may not have been all that apparent heretofore, such as a down to earth interest in Christianity as well as the poetry of Li Bai, an ancient Chinese author.
Then there's the surprising "Thank the Lord for Inspiration that comes from beyond Thought", a very zen-like sentiment…and a very Christ-ian idea: that is, the elevated Christ one sees so infrequently in the current blood and thunder fundamentalism I prefer to call 'Constantinianity' (and you need to know your history to get that one). The depth of his insight is, in fact, something Thomas Merton would have been delighted to read. Thus this release not only shows to what degree Murphey still keeps coming into his own musically but also lets one get to know the man beyond the glitz, hype, and rumors that sometimes occur with celebrity. The singer-picker-writer turns out to be a genuine and a gentleman, an artist cut from ordinary ways and happy about it.
When rockers find their savior, most, especially we atheists, groan and write 'em off (excepting Neal Morse and a few others), and too often all too correctly, but these country musicians, when they find Jesus, their catharsis is much more purgative and refreshing, very much in line with what the Christ taught. Danny Brooks is one example, Michael Martin Murphey another, and there are plenty more. Just look to the plethora of trad bluegrassers for a muliplicity of cases. So, in that spirit—or, as Murphey might put it: Spirit—you may want to look upon this marvelously melodic and captivating document as a humanist/true-Christian effort that forwards the genre and unveils the musician about as fully as is possible, but, even in view of all that...man o man o man, can every one of these guys, many returning from the last sessions, play their ever lovin' brains out!
…er, and a gal too: Carrie Hassler, the very welcome guest singer on Wildfire.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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