Walter Tunis: Michael Martin Murphey melds nearly 5 decades of his brand of genre-jumping

Contributing Music WriterMarch 6, 2014 

Michael Martin Murphey released the Western-influenced Red River Drifter last year.

Michael Martin Murphey

8 p.m. March 8 at Leeds Center for the Arts, 37 N. Main St., Winchester. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. (859) 744-4275. Leedscenter.org.

In a career spanning nearly five decades, Michael Martin Murphey has collaborated with a Monkee, summoned a hit from the Pines and explored varying degrees of country and Western music in and often way out of Nashville circles. On Saturday, songs from all of those eras converge for a concert at the Leeds Center for the Arts in Winchester.

A Texas native, Murphey, 68, prefaced his role in a progressive country movement that boomed out of Austin during the early '70s with a '60s California alliance alongside Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. That culminated with the inclusion of the country-inclined Murphey tune What Am I Doing Hangin' Round on the Monkees' 1967 album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.

But it was the critical attention Murphey received for his 1972 debut album, Geronimo's Cadillac, along with the fortifying commercial success of the breakthrough 1975 singles Wildfire and Carolina in the Pines — modern folk-pop campfire songs rich with accents of country and bluegrass — that defined his career.

Murphey steered closer to contemporary Nashville sounds and strategies during the '80s with the radio hits What's Forever For (1981) and A Long Line of Love (1987). But after heading West again at the dawn of the '90s, Murphey fully embraced traditional cowboy music. In fact, his 1990 album, Cowboy Songs, became the first album of such music to achieve gold sales status since Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs in 1959.

Murphey's newest Western- influenced recording is 2013's Red River Drifter. The title is telling. Though he still tours on top of duties as head of his own ranching business, Murphey is devoting much of his performance time to an amphitheater he opened in the Red River Valley of New Mexico last year.

Local folks

Two distinct "locals" take to the stage at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, this weekend.

Friday brings out Lexington roots music faves Coralee and the Townees for a headlining show. The group has completed work on a full album of its honky-tonk-driven and torch soul-saturated roots music. The album's release is down the road, but expect Coralee and company to dig into the record's repertoire Friday. (10 p.m. $8. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.)

As a huge bonus, the show will feature Tim Easton as opening act. Easton isn't a local, but he might as well be. He has been playing songs from his expertly crafted albums, the newest of which is Not Cool, in Lexington clubs for nearly two decades. He made his local debut as a member of The Haynes Boys in 1996, when the Cosmic Charlie's space on Woodland Avenue was occupied by Lynagh's Music Club.

On Saturday, a reconstituted version of Local H plays the venue. Last year was a tumultuous one for the Illinois rock duo. In February, guitarist/ founder Scott Lucas was robbed and assaulted after a performance in Moscow. In October, longtime drummer Brian St. Clair left the band. Lucas introduced percussionist Ryan Harding to Lexington along with tunes from the 2012 Local H album Hallelujah! I'm a Bum and 2013's The Another February EP. (10 p.m. $10, $12.)

CSN in Louisville

The road trip show of the weekend is the return of Crosby, Stills and Nash to Louisville Palace, 625 South Fourth Street, Louisville, on Saturday. (8 p.m. $59.50-$99.50. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.)

You could call this particular swing of dates The Tour That Almost Wasn't. In mid-February, David Crosby — who over the years has survived a crippling drug dependency and a liver transplant — underwent heart surgery. His recuperation meant the postponement of a series of concerts to promote Croz, his first solo studio album in two decades. But the March dates with longtime bandmates Stephen Stills and Graham Nash remain on the books.

Saturday's concert marks the first CSN show on Kentucky soil in some time — the trio plays regularly in Cincinnati during the summer — but Stills was in Lexington last fall as part of the all-star blues-rock troupe The Rides. Nash has spent much of the past six months promoting his autobiography, Wild Tales.

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