20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Rd, Cincinnati, OH
7pm doors, 8pm show, Buy Tickets
Legendary tunesmith James McMurtry continues riding waves of universal acclaim for his last offering, Complicated Game. “At a stage where most veteran musicians fall into a groove or rut, McMurtry continues to surprise,” Texas Music magazine noted. “[Complicated Game] is a collection of narratives as sharply observed as any from McMurtry, but with a contemplative depth that comes with maturity.” Indeed, the Austin resident’s latest collection spotlights a singular craftsman as he turns inward (“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.”
Either way, McMurtry spins his stories with a novelist’s eye (“Long Island Sound”) and a painter’s precision (“She Loves Me”). “[McMurtry] takes listeners on a road trip of unprecedented geographic and emotional scope,” No Depression raved of the record. “Lyrically, the album is wise and adventurous, with McMurtry — who’s not prone to autobiographical tales — credibly inhabiting characters from all walks of life.” “[McMurtry] fuses wry, literate observations about the world with the snarl of barroom rock,” National Public Radio echoed. “The result is at times sardonic, subversive and funny, but often vulnerable and always poignant.”
Complicated Game doubles down on the 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 (2008), which includes fan favorites “Hurricane Party,” “Ruby and Carlos” and “You’d a Thought,” earned a Billboard 200 chart position and some Americana Music Award nominations. Childish Things (2005) scored endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart. In 2006, Childish Things won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year; “We Can’t Make It Here” was named the rapidly rising organization’s Song of the Year. The poignant lyrics of McMurtry’s 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 has packed houses with the James McMurtry Band since his successful first album, the John Mellencamp-produced Too Long in the Wasteland (1989). The popular Live in Aught-Three (2004) on Compadre Records, and Live in Europe (2009) both captured the McMurtry band’s extraordinary concert sets.
“I’m tired of the road, but I wouldn’t want to be denied access to it,” McMurtry says. “I’m always writing new material one line at a time on the iPhone. I don’t know when there will be a new record, but Ross Hogarth will produce it whenever it happens.”
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.”