James McMurtry

AUSTIN, Texas — In James McMurtry’s new effort, The Horses and the Hounds, the acclaimed songwriter backs personal narratives with effortless elegance (“Canola Fields”) and endless energy (“If It Don’t Bleed”). This first collection in seven years, out August 20, 2021 on New West Records, spotlights a seasoned tunesmith in peak form as he turns toward reflection (“Vaquero”) and revelation ( closer “Blackberry Winter”). Familiar foundations guide the journey. “There’s a definite Los Angeles vibe to this record,” McMurtry says. “The ghost of Warren Zevon seems to be stomping around among the guitar tracks. Don’t know how he got in there. He never signed on for work for hire.”

The Horses and the Hounds is a reunion of sorts. McMurtry recorded the new album with legendary producer Ross Hogarth (John Fogerty, Van Halen, Keb’ Mo’) at Jackson Browne’s Groovemaster’s in Santa Monica, California, a world class studio that has housed such legends as Bob Dylan (2012’s Tempest) and David Crosby (2016’s Lighthouse) as well as Browne himself for I’m Alive (1993) and New Found Glory, Coming Home (2006). McMurtry and Hogarth first worked together 30 years ago, when Hogarth was a recording engineer in the employ of John Mellencamp at Mellencamp’s own Belmont Studios near Bloomington, Indiana. Hogarth recorded McMurtry’s first two albums, Too Long in the Wasteland and Candyland, for Columbia Records and later mixed McMurtry’s first self-produced album, Saint Mary of the Woods, for Sugar Hill Records. Another veteran of those three releases, guitarist David Grissom (Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, Dixie Chicks), returns with some of his finest work.

Accordingly, the new collection marks another upward trajectory: The Horses and the Hounds will be McMurtry’s debut album on genre-defining Americana record label New West Records (Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Buddy Miller, dozens more).

“I first became aware of James McMurtry’s formidable songwriting prowess while working at Bug Music Publishing in the ’90s,” says New West president John Allen. “He’s a true talent. All of us at New West are excited at the prospect of championing the next phase of James’ already successful and respected career.” McMurtry perfectly fits a label housing “artists who perform real music for real people.” After all, No Depression says of the literate songwriter’s most recent collection, Complicated Game: “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 says. “The result is at times sardonic, subversive and funny, but often vulnerable and always poignant.”

His lauded storytelling — check out songs such as “Operation Never Mind” and “Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call” on The Horse and the Hounds— consistently has turned heads for decades now. “James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” said John Mellencamp back in 1989, when Too Long in the Wasteland hit the Billboard 200. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he’s working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” McMurtry’s albums Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005) back the claim, each scoring endless critical praise. The former earned McMurtry his highest Billboard 200 chart position in two decades (since eclipsed by Complicated Game) and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Childish Things spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006, and won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year, with “We Can’t Make It Here” named the organization’s Song of the Year.

Other accolades include a 1996 Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where’d You Hide the Body and an American Indie Award for Best Americana Album for It Had to Happen (1997).

James McMurtry spins stories with a poet’s pen (“Long Island Sound”) and a painter’s precision (“She Loves Me”). Proof: The acclaimed songwriter’s new Complicated Game. McMurtry’s first collection in six years spotlights a craftsman in absolutely peak form as he turns from political toward personal (“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. I never make a conscious decision about what to write about.”

Complicated Game delivers McMurtry’s trademark story songs time and again (“Copper Canteen,” “Deaver’s Crossing”), but the record brings a new (and certainly no less energetic) sonic approach. Simply put: McMurtry brings forth another new masterpiece.

“How’m I Gonna Find You Now,” the record’s lead single boasts buoyant banjos and driving drums endlessly energetic. Whiplash vocals further frenzy the beat. “I’ve got a cup of black coffee so I don’t get lazy/I’ve got a rattle in the dashboard driving me crazy,” McMurtry effectively raps. “If I hit it with my fist, it’ll quit for a little while/Gonna have to stop to smoke in another mile/Headed into town gonna meet you at the mercantile/Take you to the Sonic get you grinning like a crocodile.”

Such vibrant vignettes consistently turn heads. They have for a quarter century now. Clearly, he’s only improving with time. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he’s working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” “James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” echoes iconic roots rocker John Mellencamp. Yes. Spin “South Dakota.” You’ll hear.

Further evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Meanwhile, Childish Things scored endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, Childish Things won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year and “We Can’t Make It Here” was named the rapidly rising organization’s Song of the Year.

Of course, Complicated Game doubles down on 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 alone includes fan favorites “Hurricane Party,” “Ruby and Carlos” and “You’d a Thought.” High watermarks deliver equal measures depth and breadth and pierce hearts with sharp sociopolitical commentary (“Fireline Road”).

More history: McMurtry critically lauded first album Too Long in the Wasteland (1989) was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill Records. In 1996, McMurtry received a Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where’d You Hide the Body. Additionally, It Had to Happen (1997) received the American Indie Award for Best Americana Album.

In 2004, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre Records. The following year, Childish Things notched arguably his most critical praise, spending six weeks at No. 1 on the Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006. In September 2006, Childish Things and “We Can’t Make It Here” won the Americana

Music Awards for Album and Song of the Year, respectively. McMurtry received more Americana Music Award nominations for 2008’s Just Us Kids. This album marked his highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than nearly two decades.

In 2009, Live in Europe was released, capturing the McMurtry band’s first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan (The Faces) and Jon Dee Graham (True Believers, Skunks). Also, for the first time ever, video of the James McMurtry Band’s live performance is available on the included DVD.

The poignant lyrics of his 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 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.”

JAMES McMURTRY RELEASES COMPLICATED GAME,
HIS FIRST STUDIO ALBUM IN SIX YEARS

Celebrated tunesmith’s highly anticipated record an elegant
collection “mostly about relationships” and “the big old world”

AUSTIN, Texas: James McMurtry spins stories with a poet’s pen (“Long Island Sound”) and a painter’s precision (“She Loves Me”). Proof: The acclaimed songwriter’s newComplicated Game. McMurtry’s first collection in six years spotlights a craftsman in absolutely peak form as he turns from political toward personal (“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. I never make a conscious decision about what to write about.”

Complicated Game delivers McMurtry’s trademark story songs time and again (“Copper Canteen,” “Deaver’s Crossing”), but the record brings a new (and certainly no less energetic) sonic approach. First, recall blistering beats and gnashing guitars from his magnum opus Just Us Kids (2008). Now, unplug. “The label head wanted more acoustic,” McMurtry explains. “We built everything as we went so we ended up with more acoustic guitar as we went. We just played whatever sounded right for a given song, but we weren’t necessarily saying this is an acoustic record.”

Exhibit A: “How’m I Gonna Find You Now.” The record’s lead single boasts buoyant banjos and driving drums as endlessly energetic as anything electrified. Whiplash vocals further frenzy the beat. “I’ve got a cup of black coffee so I don’t get lazy/I’ve got a rattle in the dashboard driving me crazy,” McMurtry effectively raps. “If I hit it with my fist, it’ll quit for a little while/Gonna have to stop to smoke in another mile/Headed into town gonna meet you at the mercantile/Take you to the Sonic get you grinning like a crocodile.”

Such vibrant vignettes consistently turn heads. They have for a quarter century now. Clearly, he’s only improving with time. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he’s working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” “James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” echoes iconic roots rocker John Mellencamp. Yes. Spin “South Dakota.” You’ll hear.

Further evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Meanwhile, Childish Things scored endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, Childish Things won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year and “We Can’t Make It Here” was named the rapidly rising organization’s Song of the Year.

Of course, Complicated Game doubles down on 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 Kidsalone includes fan favorites “Hurricane Party,” “Ruby and Carlos” and “You’d a Thought.” High watermarks deliver equal measures depth and breadth and pierce hearts with sharp sociopolitical commentary (“Fireline Road”).

More history: McMurtry critically lauded first album Too Long in the Wasteland (1989) was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill Records. In 1996, McMurtry received a Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where’d You Hide the Body. Additionally, It Had to Happen (1997) received the American Indie Award for Best Americana Album.

In 2004, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre Records. The following year, Childish Things notched arguably his most critical praise, spending six weeks at No. 1 on the Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006. In September 2006, Childish Things and “We Can’t Make It Here” won the Americana Music Awards for Album and Song of the Year, respectively. McMurtry received more Americana Music Award nominations for 2008’s Just Us Kids. This album marked his highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than nearly two decades.

In 2009, Live in Europe was released, capturing the McMurtry band’s first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan (The Faces) and Jon Dee Graham (True Believers, Skunks). Also, for the first time ever, video of the James McMurtry Band’s live performance is available on the included DVD.

The poignant lyrics of his 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 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.”

James McMurtry has signed with New West Records. The legendary songwriter is currently writing songs for a new album to be released in summer 2019 on the leading Nashville-based record label. “I first became aware of James McMurtry’s formidable songwriting prowess while working at Bug Music Publishing in the ’90s,” says New West President John Allen. “He’s a true talent. All of us at New West are excited at the prospect of championing the next phase of James’ already succesful and respected career.” McMurtry joins New West’s singular roster of all-stars including Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Buddy Miller and dozens more.
McMurtry seems a perfect fit for a label housing “artists who perform real music for real people.” After all, No Depression says of the deep-browed songwriter’s most recent collection, Complicated Game: “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 echoes. “The result is at times sardonic, subversive and funny, but often vulnerable and always poignant.”
Meanwhile, McMurtry’s new single “State of the Union” remains available as a free download via the songwriter’s website (www.jamesmcmurtry.com)! The vibrant vignette showcases a master craftsman carrying peak form into his forthcoming collection. “My brother’s a fascist, lives in Palacios, fishes the pier every night,” the song opens. “He hoslters his glock in a double retention. He smokes while he waits for a bite. He don’t like the Muslims. He don’t like the Jews. He don’t like the Blacks and he don’t trust the news. He hates the Hispanics and alternative views. He’ll tell you it’s tough to be white.”
“Every region of the United States seems to have its own way of anglicizing, or rather, Americanizing Spanish names,” McMurtry explains. “There’s a town called Palacios on the Texas coast. Texans pronounce it ‘Palashuss,’ which just happens to kinda rhyme with ‘fascist.’ While there’s usually at least one in every town, I don’t know for a fact that there’s even one actual fascist residing in or near the town of Palacios, Texas. This song, like most of my songs, is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of any of my characters to actual persons, living or deceased, is just plain lucky.”
Longtime fans know McMurtry’s sharp songwriting has turned heads for a quarter century now. Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Meanwhile, Childish Things scored endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, Childish Things won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year and “We Can’t Make It Here” was named the rapidly rising organization’s Song of the Year.
“James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation” – Stephen King

Singer-songwriter enthusiasts rejoice: James McMurtry will open for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on an extensive tour together in early 2018. The highly lauded tunesmiths will launch the run at the Criterion in Oklahoma City on January 4 and serpentine for weeks throughout the South, Midwest and East Coast before concluding at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia on February 17. Major markets on this exciting tour include the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh and Kings Theatre in Brooklyn.

“James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth,” Isbell says, “and these days he’s working at the top of his game.”

The McMurtry-Isbell combination offers fans lyrical and musical depth and weight few tours can match. After all, they’ve both been hailed as the finest songwriters of their respective generations whose latest releases — McMurtry’s Complicated Game and Isbell and the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound — show them in absolutely peak form. “James has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next,” Isbell enthuses. “I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” “Jason Isbell is one of the best songwriter-performers working today,” McMurtry counters, “and unlike most of us, he seems to have a work ethic to match. I will be studying him from the wings on this run.”

McMurtry continues riding waves of universal acclaim for Complicated Game. “At a stage where most veteran musicians fall into a groove or rut, McMurtry continues to surprise,” Texas Music magazine recently 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”) throughout. “[McMurtry] takes listeners on a road trip of unprecedented geographic and emotional scope,” No Depression raved of Complicated Game. “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.”

Longtime fans know McMurtry’s vibrant vignettes have turned heads for more than a quarter-century now. His critically successful first album Too Long in the Wasteland (1989), which was produced by John Mellencamp, marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill Records. In 1996, McMurtry received a Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for “Where’d You Hide the Body.” Additionally, It Had To Happen (1997) received the American Indie Award for Best Americana Album. In his long career, songs like “Childish Things,” “Choctaw Bingo,” “Peter Pan,” “Levelland,” and “Out Here in the Middle” only begin the list of high watermarks. (Yes, Robert Earl Keen covered those last two, “Levelland” remaining a live staple.) Childish Things (2005) scored endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart. In 2006, it won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year. The track “We Can’t Make It Here” was named that rapidly rising organization’s Song of the Year, and was cited among The Nation’s “Best Protest Songs Ever.” Just Us Kids (2008) earned McMurtry his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Just Us Kids alone includes fan favorites “Hurricane Party,” “Ruby and Carlos” and “You’d a Thought.” Songs detailing the lives of everyday people, like “Fireline Road,” pierce listeners’ hearts with sharp sociopolitical commentary. “James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation,” said Stephen King.

Meanwhile, Isbell and the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound follows their critically acclaimed Something More Than Free (2015), which won two Grammy Awards (Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song, “24 Frames”) and two Americana Music Association Awards (Album of the Year and Song of the Year, “24 Frames”). Nashville Sound’s ten tracks address real-life subjects, including cultural privilege, politics, love, and mortality. The release also finds Isbell and his bandmates returning to their rock roots full force.

Isbell steadily has become one the most respected and celebrated songwriters working today. “With his honeysuckle drawl and unrivaled knack for lyrical detail,” Rolling Stone magazine noted, “Jason Isbell is arguably the most revered roots-rock singer-songwriter of his generation. Isbell sings of the every day human condition with thoughtful, heartfelt, and sometimes brutal honesty, and the new album is no exception.”

The Nashville Sound was recorded at Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio A and produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave Cobb, who also produced Something More Than Free as well as Isbell’s 2013 breakthrough album Southeastern. The Nashville Sound is the first official Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit album since 2011’s Here We Rest. Isbell’s band the 400 Unit features Derry deBorja (keyboards), Chad Gamble (drums), Jimbo Hart (bass), Amanda Shires (fiddle) and Sadler Vaden (guitar). The group’s five-night stand at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in October sold out in less than three hours.

McMurtry’s no stranger to sold-out venues himself. He’s been packing houses with the James McMurtry Band since the release of his first record. In 2004, the popular Live in Aught-Three, on Compadre Records, demonstrated McMurtry & co.’s power on the road. In 2009, the CD/DVD Live in Europe was released, capturing the band’s first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan (the late Faces keyboardist and longtime Austin fixture) and Jon Dee Graham (True Believers, Skunks).

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.”

The New York Times Magazine’s cover story “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going” (Sunday, March 12) prominently features a four-page spread focusing on James McMurtry’s “Copper Canteen,” from his 2015 release Complicated Game. The author points directly to the song’s frequently quoted opening line as a representative passage in McMurtry’s work: “Honey, don’t you be yelling at me while I’m cleaning my gun.”

“Though that line about the gun got a big laugh when McMurtry played it in Dallas,” Ruth Graham writes, “I still don’t know whether to hear it as a joke or a threat, and McMurtry has never been one to offer the easy comfort of a straight answer.”

Additionally, while many fans consider McMurtry an overtly political songwriter (“We Can’t Make It Here Anymore,” “Cheney’s Toy”), Graham notes that he’s actually more concerned with the effect of policy on personal workaday matters. “McMurtry often writes about how seemingly distant political concerns nudge his characters’ choices and prod their psyches,” she says, “the stretched budget of the Veterans Affairs Department or the birth of a new national park’s consuming the neighbors’ land through eminent domain.”

Read the New York Times Magazine in full here: http://nyti.ms/2mqjFM9.

Those living and visiting Austin during South by Southwest this week will have several chances to catch McMurtry, from his full-band showcase at Mojo Nixon’s Jalapeno Pancake Mayhem at the Continental Club to a solo gig at El Mercado’s Backstage. Fans on the East Coast can see him on his Stateside Solo tour later in March, which launches at the Clementine Cafe in Harrisonburg, Virginia on March 25 and routes throughout the region before concluding at New York City’s City Winery on April 2.

“Nothing makes you miss Waffle House like a couple of weeks in Europe,” says McMurtry, who has been touring abroad recently. “The term ‘Continental Breakfast’ is an oxymoron.”

James McMurtry’s extensive “Back At It” summer tour kicks off during St. Louis’ Twangfest (June 8) and zigzags across North America before wrapping up in Maryville, Tenn. (July 23). Major markets include Denver, Reno, Salt Lake City as well as Midwest and East Coast stops in Indianapolis, Kansas City and Pittsburgh. “June could be hot in Austin what with the unexpected acceleration in climate change,” McMurtry says. “Time to tour, I say. Back before Napster and Spotify, we toured to promote record sales. Now we make records to promote tour dates.”

Clearly, the sea change has only inspired the singular songwriter. Witness Complicated Game. McMurtry’s first album in six years has garnered universal acclaim. “At a stage where most veteran musicians fall into a groove or rut, McMurtry continues to surprise,” Texas Music magazine recently 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, McMurtry’s latest collection spotlights a craftsman in absolutely peak form as he turns from the political toward the personal (“These Things I’ve Come to Know,” “You Got to Me”). “The lyrical theme is mostly about relationships,” the longtime Austin resident 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 poet’s pen (“Long Island Sound”) and a painter’s precision (“She Loves Me”) throughout.

Folks notice Complicated Game delivering McMurtry’s trademark story songs time and again (“Copper Canteen,” “Deaver’s Crossing”). “[McMurtry] takes listeners on a road trip of unprecedented geographic and emotional scope,” No Depression raves. “Lyrically, the album is wise and adventurous, with McMurtry – who’s not prone to autobiographical tales – credibly inhabiting characters from all walks of life.” “Fuses wry, literate observations about the world with the snarl of barroom rock,” National Public Radio (NPR) echoes. “The result is at times sardonic, subversive and funny, but often vulnerable and always poignant.”

Longtime fans know McMurtry’s vibrant vignettes have turned heads for a quarter century now. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he’s working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” (Yes. Spin “South Dakota.” You’ll hear.) “They took their time with this one,” Texas Music magazine notes, “and it was well worth it. He’s always been wise beyond his age, but middle age suits him well.”

Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched three Americana Music Award nominations (including Artist of the Year). Meanwhile, Childish Things scored endless critical praise and spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, Childish Things won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year and “We Can’t Make It Here” was named the rapidly rising organization’s Song of the Year.

Of course, Complicated Game doubles down on 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 alone includes fan favorites “Hurricane Party,” “Ruby and Carlos” and “You’d a Thought.” “Fireline Road” delivers equal measures depth and breadth and pierces hearts with sharp sociopolitical commentary.

McMurtry’s critically lauded first album Too Long in the Wasteland (1989) was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill Records. In 1996, McMurtry received a Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where’d You Hide the Body. Additionally, It Had to Happen (1997) received the American Indie Award for Best Americana Album.

In 2004, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre Records. Next, the critically acclaimed Childish Things spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006, winning the Americana Music Award for Album of the Year while the cut “We Can’t Make It Here” won Song of the Year. McMurtry received more AMA nominations for 2008’s Just Us Kids. That album marked his highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than nearly two decades.

In 2009, Live in Europe was released, capturing the McMurtry band’s first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan (The Faces) and Jon Dee Graham (True Believers, Skunks). Also, for the first time ever, video of the band’s live performance is available on the included DVD.

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.” Bob Lefsetz wrote that it “has stood the test of time because of its unmitigated truth.”

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.”