Michael Martin Murphey - Buckaroo Bluegrass II

Rural Rhythm
RHY 1056

Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song is the followon to Michael Martin Murphey’s 2009 release that featured acoustic versions of some of his most familiar hits. Like the earlier effort, this album recreates bluegrassinfluenced arrangements of familiar originals. Murphey, who wrote all but one of the twelve cuts, has assembled a stellar collection of bluegrass musicians to join him here, and the result is a rich, satisfying sound, bluegrass in essence, but with a decidedly country feel.

Harddriving cuts such as “Blue Sky Riding Song” and “Running Blood,” powered by Charlie Cushman on banjo and Andy Leftwich on fiddle, ought to satisfy any bluegrass fan, but there is also some coloring outside of the lines on the swingy “Rollin’ Nowhere” and the decidedly newgrassy “Renegade.” Perhaps the strongest cut—at least in strict bluegrass terms—is “Running Gun,” powered by some killer lead guitar by Audie Blaylock but, oddly enough, also the only tune here that Murphey didn’t write. All in all, the songs translate well to a more acoustic sound—better than we might have expected from familiarity with the original versions. That’s not surprising considering the high level of talent contributed by Sam Bush, Rob Ickes, Andy Hall, Pat Flynn, Troy Engle, and Ronnie McCoury.

Worthy of special attention is the version of Murphey’s megahit “Wildfire” performed as a duet with the fabulous Carrie Hassler. The laidback pace feels much like the original, but with Hassler’s powerful voice complementing Murphey’s softer delivery, there’s an emotional edge that makes it the highlight of a strong recording. (Rural Rhythm Records, P.O. Box 660040, Dept. D., Arcadia, CA 91066, www.ruralrhythm.com.) AWIII