Ever since my dad played the song “Jaws of Life,” I’ve been a fan of James McMurtry. He’s the greatest story teller I’ve ever heard, and he can do it all to the beat of a raw rock guitar or an unplugged acoustic. I’ve seen him live several times, mainly in the Midwest, and he never disappoints. In fact, his live performance only enhances his music as you truly realize what kind of a musician this guy is.
Whether you’re listening to his first album, Too Long in the Wasteland, or his latest, Just Us Kids, McMurtry is able to paint for you a picture of a story of a life like no other songwriter out there. I can harp on this all day, but I believe this man is the greatest songwriter alive today.
I’m not alone.
“The simple fact is that James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation…” – Stephen King
“James writes like he’s lived a lifetime.” – John Mellencamp
“The most vital lyricist in America today.” - Bob Harris
In an afternoon that really felt surreal, I had lunch with McMurtry at Fish on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Not only was McMurtry there, but his entire band joined, too. It was a pleasure to hang out with all of them and enjoy some great seafood in a musically historical area of Manhattan. When the plates were cleared and the check was paid, McMurty and I headed to the bar to chat for a few minutes.
Because I grew up in a small town of no more than 200, and McMurtry writes so eloquently about small town life, I had to ask him what he felt the future of rural America looks like. His songs are about the realities of life, and often times those realities fall on the darker side of things.
“I don’t know that there’s a good future for any ‘size town America’ right now. This economy is just ridiculous and nobody’s willing to address it because that’s just political suicide. It’s gonna take a personality on the order of Gandhi or Jesus to get us out of this.”
I saw McMurtry at Maxwell’s in Hoboken Friday night and will be in attendance at his show at the Bell House in Brooklyn Saturday night. Since I’ve seen him in Kansas City at the Grand Emporium and Knucklehead’s – and I know he has a residency every Wednesday night at The Continental Club in Austin – I asked him if he notices a difference in the crowds from the Midwest/South to NYC.
“I haven’t noticed much difference. They’re Americans.”
It was truly a privilege to sit down with McMurtry. If you haven’t, go out and see him…buy his albums…listen to everything he’s created. Whether you grew up on a farm or live in the heart of New York City, McMurtry finds a way to connect to everyone who hears his lyrics and music.Like Free Gotham on Facebook...