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James McMurtry

Idioma disponible: inglés
The son of one of America's most celebrated novelists, James McMurtry followed the family's tradition: he's a master storyteller who relates his tales in verse and music. Part of the Texas singer/songwriter community, McMurtry has a gift for character studies, documenting lives not in perfect balance, and offering political commentary on how the choices of the powerful impact the lives of ordinary folks. McMurtry's vocals are dour and plainspoken, but give eloquent voice to the lives of his protagonists, and his artfully unadorned lyrics are often full of warmth and humanity, even in narratives full of chaos. McMurtry made a celebrated debut with 1989's Too Long in the Wasteland, he hit a creative stride with 2005's Childish Things and 2008's Just Us Kids, and on 2021's The Horses and the Hounds, the performances and production were every bit as compelling as McMurtry's songs. James McMurtry was born in Fort Worth, Texas on March 18, 1962. His father was Larry McMurtry, a best-selling novelist of the Lone Star State whose works included The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment, and The Evening Star. When James was seven years old, his parents divorced, and he spent most of his childhood in Leesburg, Virginia. He attended a boarding school in Orange, Virginia, where he started to teach himself to write songs. By the time he was in college, he was playing gigs at local clubs. After living in Alaska for a while, McMurtry returned to Texas, where he supported himself with a variety of odd jobs while he continued writing music. In 1987, on the advice of a friend, McMurtry entered the annual songwriting competition at Texas's Kerrville Folk Festival, where he became a finalist. Meanwhile, Larry McMurtry had written a screenplay, Falling From Grace, that was going to be made into a film by musician turned filmmaker John Mellencamp. Larry passed a tape of his son's songs to Mellencamp, who was impressed enough to offer to produce an album for James. McMurtry took the offer, and Too Long in the Wasteland was released in 1989, after James landed a deal with Columbia Records. (James also landed a small role in the TV adaptation of Lonesome Dove, playing Jimmy Rainey.) McMurtry also contributed to the Falling from Grace soundtrack as a member of the ad hoc supergroup the Buzzin' Cousins, which also featured Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, John Prine, and Joe Ely. The song "Painting by Numbers" from Too Long in the Wasteland would rise to Number 33 on the Mainstream Rock Radio charts, and the LP peaked at Number 125 on the Top 200 listings. Along with positive reviews, this made for a respectable showing, but McMurtry's next two albums, 1992's Candyland and 1995's Where'd You Hide the Body, failed to chart, and Columbia dropped him from their roster. McMurtry next signed with the roots music imprint Sugar Hill Records; his first release for the label, 1997's It Had to Happen, showed off a more organic sound and mature lyrical outlook, and received strong reviews. Multi-instrumentalist Lloyd Maines, who produced It Had to Happen, was back for the sessions for 1998's Walk Between the Raindrops. 2002's Saint Mary of the Woods featured one of McMurtry's most popular songs, the funny but harrowing "Choctaw Bingo," and it would be his last album for Sugar Hill. ("Choctaw Bingo" would later pop up on the soundtrack to the 2008 movie Beer For My Horses, starring country star Toby Keith.) A storming live take of "Choctaw Bingo" would appear on McMurtry's next release, 2004's Live in Aught-Three, that captured him and his road band the Heartless Bastards on tour. The tough, direct sound of the live LP suited McMurtry's material, and 2005's Childish Things boasted a more full-bodied approach than his previous studio efforts; it also included the song "We Can't Make It Here," a study of American life under George W. Bush that Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called the best song of the 2000s. 2008's Just Us Kids was issued by the upstart indie label Lightning Rod Records, and was hailed by critics as one of the finest albums of McMurtry's career. By this time, McMurtry was touring regularly in the United States, occasionally traveled abroad with his band, and when not on the road he often played on Wednesday nights at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas, which he called home. A show in Amsterdam on a tour in support of Just Us Kids was recorded for release on the CD/DVD package Live in Europe, with McMurtry's band joined by Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan. Touring commitments kept McMurtry away from the studio for several years, though he did record songs for several tribute albums, including "Big Things" for Cold and Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins and "Comfort's Just a Rifle Shot Away" for Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay. McMurtry moved on to a new label, Complicated Game, for his first studio album in seven years, also called Complicated Game, which was produced by swamp rock revivalist C.C. Adcock with Mike Napolitano. The COVID-19 pandemic ended McMurtry's touring plans for 2020, so to keep himself occupied and satisfy his audience, he began playing weekly live-streamed concerts where he played fan favorites as well as debuting new material. Several songs from McMurtry's weekly streaming performances would find their way onto his 2021 album, The Horses and the Hounds, his first release for New West Records.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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