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Review and photos by Mary AndrewsMichael Martin Murphey rode into Tucson, AZ to play for an eager crowd at the Fox Theatre. It was clear that he has a passion for early American history as well as his music. "The show will be in two parts. The first part will be country. The second part will be Western. This way I have covered all the important forms of music ever conceived in the history of civilization."
Singing cowboys seem to be a thing of the past and that is not how Murphey started his career in the 1970s. He was a pop star with the monster hit "Wildfire." His music evolved into country and later into the Western music he grew up singing. "Cowboys were depicted as white skinned, blue-eyed men like me. Actually, only twenty-five percent of cowboys were white, fifty percent were Hispanic and twenty-five percent were black. "After the Civil War, African Americans were given 40 acres and a mule. No money. Who can take care of 40 acres with no money? So they migrated to the West."
Murphey's politics commenced early during his one-man show. He introduced "Carolina In The Pines" as a song about where my people come from. "I have no Indian blood. But I did come from the most tribal people on earth, the Irish. The Irish don't much like it when you steal their land either!" His stories were enjoyable and informative regardless of your own political views.
He shared the fact that at one time he was on the FBI watch list. President George Bush Senior had invited him to assist with his campaigning. He received a call from Mr. Bush's people, informing him that this was a problem. They asked if he wanted to be removed from that list. He refused to be taken off the list stating he was very proud to be on that list and it represented his right to freedom of speech.
Mr. Murphey accompanied himself on guitar through most of the show. He played banjo during one song. The "pin-drop" moment came when he sang a cappella during his rendition of "O Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie." His voice has held up well through the years. He was able to mimic the Native American method of song as well as yodeling in other songs.
He spoke fondly of Arizona and its gun politics. He mentioned though that Arizona along with some other Western states, punished livestock rustlers by hanging. "That law changed in Arizona in 1921. After that, civilization started to decay in Arizona. Civilization here is still good, but it was better back then."
The show was moving, heartfelt, humorous, haunting and intimate. The final introduction paid homage to the "horse." "They are truly man's best friend. Apologies to the dog and cat lovers in the audience. You go back thousands of years. You see the horse nobly standing by the soldier or the worker. The horse represents freedom and this song is about freedom." The song was "Wildfire."
1. Carolina in the Pines
2. Vanishing Breed
3. Lost River
4. Lone Cowboy
5. Geronimo's Cadillac
6. Medicine Man
7. A Long Line of Love /Bringing In The Sheaves
8. What's Forever For
9. Cowboy Logic
10. Little Joe the Wrangler
11. Land of Enchantment
12. O Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie
13. Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail
14. Spanish is the Lovin' Tongue
15. The Old Chisholm Trail
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