James McMurtry

James McMurtry

Sun · July 22, 2018

7:00 pm

$25.00 - $30.00

This event is all ages

James McMurtry
James McMurtry
"Back before Napster and Spotify, we toured to promote record sales.
Now we make records to promote tour dates."
AUSTIN, Texas: James McMurtry spins stories with a poet’s pen (“Long Island Sound”)
and a painter’s precision (“She Loves Me”). Proof: The acclaimed songwriter’s new
Complicated Game. McMurtry’s first collection in six years spotlights a craftsman in
absolutely peak form as he turns from political toward personal (“These Things I’ve
Come to Know,” “You Got to Me”). “The lyrical theme is mostly about relationships,”
McMurtry says. “It’s also a little about the big old world verses the poor little farmer or
fisherman. I never make a conscious decision about what to write about.”
Complicated Game delivers McMurtry’s trademark story songs time and again (“Copper
Canteen,” “Deaver’s Crossing”), but the record brings a new (and certainly no less
energetic) sonic approach. Simply put: McMurtry brings forth a another new
“How’m I Gonna Find You Now,” the record’s lead single boasts buoyant banjos and
driving drums endlessly energetic. Whiplash vocals further frenzy the beat. “I've got a
cup of black coffee so I don't get lazy/I've got a rattle in the dashboard driving me crazy,”
McMurtry effectively raps. “If I hit it with my fist, it’ll quit for a little while/Gonna have to
stop to smoke in another mile/Headed into town gonna meet you at the mercantile/Take
you to the Sonic get you grinning like a crocodile.”
Such vibrant vignettes consistently turn heads. They have for a quarter century now.
Clearly, he’s only improving with time. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite
songwriters on Earth and these days he's working at the top of his game,” says
Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener
laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better
lyrics.” “James writes like he's lived a lifetime,” echoes iconic roots rocker John
Mellencamp. Yes. Spin “South Dakota.” You’ll hear.
Further evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The
former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and
notched Americana Music Award nominations. Meanwhile, Childish Things scored
endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart
in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, Childish Things won the Americana Music Association’s
Album of the Year and “We Can’t Make It Here” was named the rapidly rising
organization's Song of the Year.
Of course, Complicated Game doubles down on literate storytelling longtime
enthusiasts expect. Recall high watermarks past: “Childish Things,” “Choctaw Bingo,”
“Peter Pan,” “Levelland,” and “Out Here in the Middle” only begin the list. (Yes, Robert
Earl Keen covered those last two, “Levelland” remaining a live staple.) Just Us Kids
alone includes fan favorites “Hurricane Party,” “Ruby and Carlos” and “You’d a
Thought.” High watermarks deliver equal measures depth and breadth and pierce
hearts with sharp sociopolitical commentary (“Fireline Road”).
More history: McMurtry critically lauded first album Too Long in the Wasteland (1989)
was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed
projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill Records. In 1996, McMurtry received a Grammy
nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where'd You Hide the Body. Additionally, It
Had to Happen (1997) received the American Indie Award for Best Americana Album.
In 2004, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre
Records. The following year, Childish Things notched arguably his most critical praise,
spending six weeks at No. 1 on the Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006. In
September 2006, Childish Things and “We Can’t Make It Here” won the Americana
Music Awards for Album and Song of the Year, respectively. McMurtry received more
Americana Music Award nominations for 2008’s Just Us Kids. This album marked his
highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than nearly two decades.
In 2009, Live in Europe was released, capturing the McMurtry band’s first European tour
and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren
Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan (The Faces) and Jon
Dee Graham (True Believers, Skunks). Also, for the first time ever, video of the James
McMurtry Band’s live performance is available on the included DVD.
The poignant lyrics of his immense catalog still ring true today. In 2011, “We Can’t Make
It Here” was cited among The Nation’s “Best Protest Songs Ever.” “‘We Can’t Make It
Here,’” Bob Lefsetz wrote, “has stood the test of time because of its unmitigated truth.”
McMurtry tours year round and consistently throws down unparalleled powerhouse
performances. The Washington Post notes: “Much attention is paid to James McMurtry’s
lyrics and rightfully so: He creates a novel’s worth of emotion and experience in four
minutes of blisteringly stark couplets. What gets overlooked, however, is that he’s an
accomplished rock guitar player ... serious stuff, imparted by a singularly serious band.”
Venue Information:
Mesa Theater
538 Main St
Grand Junction, CO, 81501