ASHLAND — As a musician, the late Michael Murphy meant many things to many people.
For the varied group of vocalists and musicians who gathered at a recording studio in downtown Ashland on Sunday, the connection to Murphy was most often based on personal memories of the man’s life and music as they came together to form a choir for one of his old songs — Fall In Love Again.
James Michael Murphy died as the result of a fire in May, 1995 and while not widely known outside of the Tri-State, his music had a profound impact on many of the area’s aspiring and working musicians. Murphy was the singer and guitarist for the band Zachariah, perhaps best known for their regional hit song “Appalachian Lady.” Many of the songs he wrote, including Appalachian Lady and Old Cheap Wine, continue to be performed by area musicians every weekend.
Friends and musical co-conspirators Joe Caudill, Corky Holbrook and Terry Withrow have been working on a new album of Murphy’s music, using original vocal tracks, as well as a few tracks with Murphy’s guitar work, for a posthumous project with the working title M2.
“I think all of these songs have been previously released,” Withrow said, explaining they wanted to update the production values of the old recordings and utilize the talents of some of the area’s other gifted musicians to create an entirely new sound.
“We asked, if Mike were to walk into the studio today, how would he record these songs,” Withrow said, adding everyone involved has the utmost respect for Murphy’s legacy. While some “hardcore Zachariah fans” might not approve of the revised sounds, Withrow said he thinks people who love Murphy’s music will appreciate the new efforts being applied to the old recordings.
Sunday’s session included vocal contributions from a choir made up of area musicians including Robin Fletcher, Celesta Watts, Angy Hall-Ross, Robin Fraley-Dingus, Carla Brown, Jay Williams, Phil Osborne, Greg Dingus, Dewey Frye and Tim Holmes. If all goes according to schedule, the new recording will be available on CD in May to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Murphy’s passing.
Following the Sunday session, Withrow reported the singers worked together to compose a backing vocal part and record their tracks live in the studio through three different microphones.
“It came out awesome. We are really happy with it,” Withrow said. “When we’re finished, our goal is to have a concert, maybe even at the Paramount, with all the individuals performing, and do kind of a big tribute night to him.”
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.