What’s the best song about Austin? Hard to argue with this one.

Michael Martin Murphey. Contributed/Joe Owenby

Songs about Austin aren’t quite as common as one might expect for the Live Music Capital of the World. We get namechecks and references now and again, but it’s a smaller set of tunes that actually use the city’s name in the title. A handful: Bobby Bare’s “Lost in Austin,” Doug Sahm’s “I Can’t Go Back to Austin,” Shelley King’s “Christmas in Austin,” Butch Hancock’s “Changin’ Planes in Austin,” David Kent & Kirsti Manna’s “Austin” (made famous by Blake Shelton).

But when Michael Murphey (he started using the “Martin” middle name later) released the seminal progressive-country album “Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir” in 1973, the second song on it was the beautifully surreal “Alleys of Austin.” More than four decades later, it still ranks as the best song about Austin ever recorded. Alejandro Escovedo made a case for it three years ago when his cover of the song was a highlight of his extensive “United Sounds of Austin” all-star revue at ACL Live in 2014.

READ MORE: 20 of the best country songs about Austin

The long-out-of-print album can be hard to find, though a live version of the tune also appears on Murphey’s 2004 CD “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas.” But in 1990, Murphey performed the song solo acoustic on “Texas Connection,” a short-lived music-TV series filmed in the same University of Texas campus studio as “Austin City Limits” at the time (and with the “ACL” crew). That version recently surfaced on YouTube. Check out “Alleys of Austin” and hear what Murphey saw in the city back in those cosmic 1970s days:

 

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