Representatives of three distinct wings of country music release albums this week. Singer-songwriters Todd Snider, Michael Martin Murphey and Alejandro Escovedo may espouse different sounds today, but all three have deep roots in the Austin music scene.
Murphey first came to prominence in the “Cosmic Cowboy” era in Austin in the early and mid ’70s. He achieved pop and country hits with such songs as “Wildfire” and “Carolina in the Pines.” He has since concentrated on cowboy and western music, but on Playing Favorites (Real West/Westfest) he revisits many of his early works, re-recording such fan favorites as “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “What’s Forever For” and “Long Line of Love.” Murphey also includes “Dancing Horses,” which he wrote with his son Ryan and which has been a concert staple for years. Murphey contributes new liner notes.
Snider began his musical career in the Austin coffeehouse scene, following such personal heroes as John Prine. His 1994 debut album for MCA Nashville, Songs for the Daily Planet, drew critical attention in both the rock and country fields. Two more albums for the Nashville label convinced both parties that his future lay elsewhere. After having once served as Prine’s driver early on during a Memphis recording session, Snider now releases his second CD on Prine’s record label, New Connection (Oh Boy). It continues the oft-whimsical, sometimes biting, sometimes serious work on his Oh Boy debut, Happy to Be Here. Guests on the new album include Prine, Kim Richey and Will Kimbrough.
Escovedo was playing his blend of country and punk with the groups Rank & File, Nuns and True Believers long before the moniker “alt-country” came along to describe it. And before the alt-country journal No Depression named him its artist of the decade for the ’90s. Now, the Austin-based singer-songwriter follows up last year’s critically praised A Man Under the Influence (Bloodshot) with two releases. The double CD Gravity (Texas Music Group/Lone Star) includes his groundbreaking 1992 debut of the same name — along with a bonus track from those sessions. The second CD is a live concert recorded in McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California in 1993. Escovedo’s second new release is By the Hand of the Father (Texas Music Group/Lone Star), featuring music from the theatrical production of the same name. Accompanying him are Rosie Flores, Cesar Rosas, Reuben Ramos and Pete Escovedo.