Michael Martin Murphey bringing American West music to Colorado National Monument
As the sun fades into the west, the shade of the Colorado National Monument is particularly nice.
The heat begins to ebb away from the rocks and earth, and the small sounds of evening in the high desert begin to come out.
On Friday, June 30, another group of sounds will join the landscape at the Devils Kitchen Picnic Shelter on the monument.
There will be Michael Martin Murphey’s acoustic guitar, his son’s Celtic harp, voices, applause and a certain appreciation for the concert’s distinctly Western surroundings.
This concert is one of very few that have taken place in recent history at the Devils Kitchen Picnic Shelter, where the natural rock acoustics play well with music.
“It’s a rare event,” said Ron Wilson with Sandstone Concerts, which is organizing this concert in conjunction with the Colorado National Monument Association.
“You have to meet a lot of criteria and have the right sound for the monument to say yes to a concert,” said Wilson, who organized the Ottmar Liebert concert two years ago at Devils Kitchen.
In this case, Murphey’s music as well as narratives about Western history and lore, cowboy themes and stories about trappers and traders, trail builders and American indians that made this concert a good fit for the monument, Wilson said.
“I have a lot of songs about nature and about how much I love the Western landscape, so I will be emphasizing those songs,” Murphey said in a recent phone interview.
He also will be playing some of his best-known songs, such as “Geronimo’s Cadillac” and “Wildfire.”
While he’s never been to the monument, Murphey said he is looking forward to the stripped-down nature of the concert and its natural location.
He has played at a number of national parks, he said, and is always glad for the chance to sing surrounded by the West he loves.
“I’m a dyed in the wool, 100 percent proud Westerner. I think we live in the most beautiful part of the world,” he said.
He can wake up in the morning at his northern Colorado ranch and find all the material he needs for writing a song, he said.
Murphey also likes to tell stories.
“They just come to me when I’m up there (on stage). I don’t really ever have a script. I’ve been going this a long time. I’m 72 years old,” Murphey said.
At the Devils Kitchen concert, “I’ll be talking about the land,” he said. “I try to keep it light.”
Accompanying Murphey for this concert is his son, Brennan Murphey, playing the Celtic harp.
“My son Brennan was an electronic music DJ who put on all-night events,” Murphey said. “He’s just always been, you know, musically the polar opposite of his dad.”
Then one day about two years ago, Brennan called up Murphey and said. “You know Dad, I had a dream and I’m going to get myself a Celtic harp.”
They talked about it a bit more “and the next thing you know I was buying my son a Celtic harp,” Murphey said. “He has just become a master ... It blows me over.”
And as a form of accompaniment, the Celtic harp is “a heck of a lot more portable” than a piano, and it “just blends well with an acoustic guitar,” he said.
A concert situation such as Devils Kitchen is just the place for that kind of sound, he said.
“It’s unexpected,” Wilson agreed. “It works and people love it.”
It also suits the concert’s goal of providing educational entertainment in a beautiful location while making as small a human footprint on that location as possible, Wilson said.
There is no power they can use at the site, so some quiet generators will provide electricity for the small PA system.
There will be some seating provided, but those attending the concert may want to bring their own chairs, he said.
It will be an “intimate gathering,” he said, but includes the sights and sounds of the American West.