On his new album, High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII, Iconic Western Artist Michael Martin Murphey pleads on the stunningly beautiful Australian cowboy song, “Campfire On The Road” “We must never let ’em take this life away / Old stock routes belong to one and all / Drovers, dreamers all agree / Poets, Aborigines / We have a right to light a campfire on the road.”
The lyric underscores the dramatic tone of Murphey’s return to his Texas-cowboy roots at a time when we are facing the rapid deterioration of our crowded world’s most precious resources: Land and Water.
“This generation of the human family is witnessing the emergence of their home as a desert planet”, says Murphey, a passionate lifelong rancher-poet. “Two-thirds of the Earth’s land surface is grassland plain. Eighty percent of its soil is dying. This is due to a lack of grazing animals — cattle, sheep, buffalo, deer, elk, goats, even free-range chickens and pigs. We need vastly more split-hooved grazing animals that turn up the soil — managed by the world’s stockmen and stockwomen — to replicate the rotational-grazing habits of wild herds to restore grasslands for the creatures and life-forms that thrive there.
“As we develop cities and urban sprawl, we run off animals that cannot be replaced by technology,” he continued. “You can’t eat computer chips.”
Best known for a genre busting career that includes topping the Pop, Country, Bluegrass and Western Music charts, the timing of High Stakes is particularly significant as the album release day falls on Earth Day (April 22).
“It may sound like an oxymoron, but ‘Cowboy Culture’ is real and relevant,” Murphey says. “I celebrate men and women who love Dirt, Grass and Water.
“Truth is, cowboys and cowgirls can save the planet.”
Murphey himself has been a long-time activist and outspoken supporter of caring for land and water. Murphey was inspired by the work of noted Zimbabwean Ecologist, Dr. Alan Savory, who was a consultant to his ranching partnership with Holistic Grazing pioneer Bert Madera of Jal, New Mexico.
“Grasslands sequester carbon,” Murphey explains. “Too much carbon in the atmosphere instead of the grass and soil is the real cause of climate change. Ranchers around the world are fighting leaving ground bare and managed grazing is a key way to do that.
“Real environmentalists are the men and women who spend their days working the land responsibly to ensure its health for generations to come.”
The message is so potent that when Murphey appeared at Earth Day Texas last year, the founder of the event, Trammel S. Crow, Jr. asked Murphey to become the Official Ambassador for the 2016 event.
With Murphey Western Institute, they created the Grazing Land Restoration Initiative.
“Michael is more than an award-winning country western singer-songwriter,” said Crow. “He is also an avid steward of the culture and landscape of the American West. We have a mutual interest in protecting the environment for future generations.”
Murphey returns to his singing cowboy roots on High Stakes to tell riveting human stories of love and hate, sin and redemption, loss and risk, failure and victory, revenge and forgiveness and family legacy.
From the rollicking notes of the title track “High Stakes”, to the final notes of the lovely “The End of the Road,” Murphey celebrates the western lifestyle so well-dramatized by the passionate struggles of the grazing land cultures of the world who literally live and die by managing land and water.
Among the highlights are his take on John Williamson’s “Three Sons,” and “Campfire on the Road,” Roger Creager’s “I’ve Got The Guns,” and Marty Robbins’ standards “Running Gun” and “Master’s Call.”
The wonderful “Emilia Farewell” and “The End Of The Road” — both written with son, Ryan Murphey —are gorgeous traditional cowboy songs. On the title track, also written with Ryan and third collaborator Pauline Reese, Murphey explains there is an urgency to his message: “You don’t understand the cards you’re holding and your hands start to shake / High Stakes.”
Over the past 40 years, Murphey has left an indelible mark on the American Music Landscape with hits like “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Cosmic Cowboy,” “Wildfire,” “Carolina In The Pines,” “Cherokee Fiddle,” “What’s Forever For,” and “Cowboy Logic.”
Murphey will officially unveil High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII at Earth Day Texas, a 3-day celebration to be held at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas, beginning April 22. The event is free to the public.