The children of musical celebrities often have a difficult time establishing their own voices in the shadows of their parents’ accomplishments and reputations.
As the son of renowned Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry, James McMurtry had a slightly different problem when he embarked on his singer/songwriter career in the ’80s. People scrutinized his lyrical style for traces of his father’s writing style. McMurtry easily lived up to his DNA on his John Mellencamp-produced debut, 1989’s Too Long in the Wasteland, exhibiting a penchant for dark and dusty short story songs populated by a noirish cast of losers and dreamers.
McMurtry has gone from strength to strength in the intervening 23 years, compiling an estimable catalog of eight studio albums and a pair of stellar live recordings as proof of his compelling stage presence.
In recent years, McMurtry has become increasingly political in his work. On 2005’s Childish Things, he lambasted George W. Bush, the Iraq War and Wal-Mart in the anthemic “We Can’t Make It Here” (which won Song of the Year at the 2006 Americana Awards) and those themes continued on 2008’s Just Us Kids, exemplified by the darkly hilarious “Cheney’s Toy.” McMurtry recently collaborated with Steve Earle and Joan Baez on a reworking of “We Can’t Make It Here” for the Occupy This Album compilation, a fundraiser for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
It’s been four years since Just Us Kids and given the current political environment of this election year, it’s a safe bet that McMurtry will have a few new mordant gems to share on this tour, reinforcing the quote from Stephen King on McMurtry’s website: “James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.”
JAMES MCMURTRY performs Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Southgate House Revival in Newport with Monkeytonk. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.