James McMurtry with Curtis McMurtry - 3/2
at City Winery New York City
ABOUT JAMES MCMURTY
On Just Us Kids, James McMurtry follows up his critically acclaimed Childish Things with a dozen new, sharply drawn illuminations as he continues to hone and expand his considerable gifts. And the self-produced opus (James’ fourth venture pulling strings on both sides of the glass) unquestionably represents his most ambitious, accomplished and ass-kicking presentation to date.
The Texas native long has been known as an astute, clear-eyed observer and concise, no-holds-barred chronicler of the human condition, but a growing socio-political edge fairly exploded just prior to the 2004 elections when his scathing, palace-rattling “We Can’t Make It Here” was made available online as a free download. The seven-plus-minute diatribe against social injustice and the Administration’s hypocrisy and deceptions repercussed wildly across the Internet and the airwaves, igniting a grassroots firestorm that has brought legions of new fans to the singer/songwriter’s work.
Released in autumn of 2005, Childish Things featured an uncensored version of “We Can’t Make It Here”; the CD spent six weeks at #1 on R&R’s Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005/2006 and racked up James’ best sales totals in a decade en route to capturing nods for both Best Song and Best Album from the Fifth Annual Americana Music Association Honors and Awards.
Just Us Kids — McMurtry’s ninth full-length album — picks up on the heat of Childish Things, and while he insists that “the majority of the songs are not political,” it’s also clear that he’s not even close to abandoning his burgeoning role as a searing political gadfly.
The core band throughout is McMurtry on guitar, his longtime road band The Heartless Bastards (bassist Ronnie Johnson and drummer Daren Hess) and “guest Bastard” Ian McLagan (The Faces) on keys. Extra texture arrives via some hand picked, well-placed cameos: Timbuk3’s pat mAcdonald adorns several tracks with his patented, haunting harmonica and all-around otherworldliness. Swamp-king C.C. Adcock (McMurtry: “He’s as subtle as a brick through a windshield . . .”) saws off some six-string mayhem on the raucous opener “Bayou Tortous,” and the splendid Jon Dee Graham (whose band shares the Continental Club’s stage with McMurtry & Co. on Wednesday nights in Austin) shreds maniacally on “Fireline Road.” And that’s James’ 17-year-old son Curtis McMurtry blowing baritone sax on “Bayou . . .” McMurtry’s own guitar work tends to be overlooked relative to his spectacular tunesmithing, but despite his poor-mouthing — “I can’t afford to pay to have it done, so I had to learn how to do it myself” — it’s a flinty, muscular style perfectly suited to punctuate and emphasize his cogent, acerbic revelations.
These recent years have found James McMurtry’s many skills steadily coalescing into an increasingly substantial, formidable whole: the voice, the tunes, the stories and the musicianship have become elementally interwoven to create the inimitable fabric of a distinct, singular artist who’s determined to get to the heart of the matter, shake things up and do whatever it takes to make a difference.
In his regular column for Entertainment Weekly, noted author (and passionate rock ’n’ roll enthusiast) Stephen King cited McMurtry as “the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.”
Amen to that. And Just Us Kids makes it clear that there’s much more to come. —Jim Musser, January 2008
ABOUT CURTIS MCMURTRY
Curtis McMurtry began writing songs at the age of four, deftly articulating such tragedies as Hephaestus' fall from Olympus and Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo. Ever since, Curtis has continued to write songs from the skewed (occasionally schizophrenic) perspectives of various characters he has met, read about, or imagined.
Curtis is the son of Americana Award winning songwriter James McMurtry, and the grandson of novelist/screen play author Larry McMurtry. Curtis began performing in bands during middle and high school, playing as many instruments as he could get his hands on, and experimenting with numerous genres. By the end of his senior year of high school, Curtis had assembled God's Chosen People, a group of his fellow Jazz band students, and used them to perform his brand of church-and-circus-inspired Americana music in the clubs of Austin TX. The group soon recorded their debut, Belly of the Whale at WIRE recording. God's Chosen People has since evolved into a 7-piece band, featuring a dixieland horn section (clarinet, trumpet, saxophone and trombone) as well as delightful three-part vocal harmonies, perhaps most inspired by Denver's Paper Bird (however, the influence of Curtis' hero, Tom Waits, is sometimes difficult to miss). Though the members are away at various colleges throughout the school year, they reunite over their winter and summer vacations to play in Austin clubs such as Momo's and the Continental Club. In the summer of 2012, Curtis McMurtry & God's Chosen People released their sophomore album, Proper Way To Travel.
Curtis currently studies music at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. In September 2010, Curtis started a new project, Friendly Strangers. Influenced by new acoustic acts such as Punch Brothers and Crooked Still, Friendly Strangers combine traditional folk instruments like the banjo and accordion with their love of less traditional song structures and melodic dissonance in an attempt to create music that is both pointy and tentacled. Friendly Strangers' debut, Where We Go, We Grow is available now!