Kenny Chesney has taken the David Lee Murphy-penned hits "Pirate Flag," "Livin' in Fast Forward" and "'Til It's Gone" into the upper reaches of the country charts, and now he's returning the favor by working on a brand-new album with the prolific tunesmith. Chesney made the announcement at the offices of performing rights organization BMI while accepting awards for a pair of his chart-topping hits, calling Murphy "the original – and last – of the hillbilly rock stars," and noting that 20 years have passed since the singer-songwriter topped the charts as an artist with fan favorites, "Party Crowd" and "Dust on the Bottle."
"We got together to make a record of songs we liked the sound of . . . things we'd want to listen to ourselves," Murphy says in a statement revealing the surprise collaboration. "Kenny's got great ears, and I kept sending him demos — more than he could ever record, but he just loved the songs. One day, he said, 'I think we oughta go make a record!'"
Working with his longtime producer, Buddy Cannon, Chesney and Murphy co-produced No Zip Code, a 10-track collection which features Chesney on the title cut and bluegrass legend Dan Tyminski (from Alison Krauss and Union Station) on "As a Crow Flies," which is described as "stark and organic."
Chesney also hints that the collection will explore Murphy's penchant for full-tilt country laced with rock influences. "There's a real aggression to this," he explains. "But it's also core country like it's not being done. Not retro, but the way Alabama or the Dirt Band might sound today. . . This is about being raised on the right influences, and hitting it straight on."
Making his MCA Records debut in 1994, Murphy's debut single was "Just Once," from the soundtrack of the rodeo-themed film, 8 Seconds. His debut album, Out With a Bang, released in 1995, featured "Party Crowd," his first Top Ten entry, and the chart-topping "Dust on the Bottle." The Illinois native's sophomore LP notched two Top Five hits, but after a third album, he left the label.
Murphy last scored a Top Five hit as an artist in 2004 with "Loco," but has written or co-written dozens of cuts not only for Chesney but also for Gary Allan ("A Feelin' Like That"), Jason Aldean ("Big Green Tractor"), Blake Shelton ("The More I Drink") and Thompson Square ("Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not"), among many others. He notes that, like the songs from his own early influences, the themes were universal.
"When I was 20, I was listening to Waylon [Jennings], Merle Haggard, Willie [Nelson], [George] Jones," says the now-56-year-old. "I was out on a back road, drinking beer, knowing they'd done stuff – and wanting to hear all about it. That's kind of the way with me, too: these songs aren't about me, they are me, and there's an edge, but even more, they're real."
No release date or record-label home has officially been announced for the new project.