James McMurtry – Live in Europe

January 01, 1970

(Lightning Rod)




Last year, James McMurtry released his devastating
indictment of life in the Bush years of America, Just Us Kids. Now, with a new administration in office, he’s taken
six of the less directly political songs from that record, added two other
older cuts, and brought out Live in
. It’s another chance to notice how in and around the anger about
macroscopic events, McMurtry is capable of extraordinary nuance in describing
the lives of ordinary people on a microscopic level.


“Hurricane Party” takes place at the intersection of the
political and the personal, as McMurtry tells of a man whose life has been
blown hard by winds of lost loves and lack of opportunity as much as by the
devastating effects of Katrina. “Just Us Kids” itself is the story of men going
through a lifetime of fooling themselves about their chances of success,
although its also the story of men surviving and staying true to their old
friends. And “Ruby and Carlos” is an overwhelming look at two people whose
lives have been intertwined but who remain apart for a variety of reasons.


Apart from refocusing songs away from the glare of diatribes
against Dick Cheney, Live in Europe offers the distinctive pleasures of a typical James McMurtry show, with his
thousand and one guitars of perfect tone, and that impeccable rhythm section of
bassist Ronnie Johnson and drummer Darren Hess. More than that, for this
European tour, the band is augmented by fellow Austin, TX
resident Ian McLagan, former keyboardist of the Faces. As Mac has done time and
time again for musicians ranging from Bob Dylan to Billy Bragg, his piano and
organ blends deliciously with the rhythm guitar and pumps furiously and
inventively when soloing or playing counterpoint to another lead. His presence
makes this an essential live recording, as it’s something only a lucky few were
ever able to hear in person.


The accompanying DVD lets us watch the band on two of the
eight songs on the CD, as well as throwing in such McMurtry classics as
“Choctaw Bingo,” “We Can’t Make It Here,” and “Too Long in the Wasteland.”
There’s also a sloppy guest appearance by Jon Dee Graham, which makes up in
enthusiasm what it lacks in cohesion.


Standout tracks: “Just
Us Kids,” “Ruby and Carlos” and on DVD, “Choctaw Bingo,” “We Can’t Make It


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